CPS allocates $40 million for Hyde Park Academy renovations

Flanked by the Rev. Leon Finney, Ald. Leslie Hairston, Dr. Byron T. Brazier, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson, Principal Antonio Ross and high school students, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces $40 million in CPS investments into Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., on Sept. 11. – Aaron Gettinger

Staff Writer

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced an additional $20 million investment into Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., on Sept. 11. In addition to ongoing restorations of the school’s facade and roof, which received $20 million in funding last year, specific improvements include lighting and floors throughout the school and a renovated gym, classrooms, lunchroom and science labs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), Principal Antonio Ross, Dr. Byron T. Brazier and two Hyde Park High alumni, the Rev. Leon Finney and CPS CEO Janice Jackson, attended the event, which doubled as the unveiling of the 2018 CPS “academic report card.”

Kyle Evans, president of the class of 2019 and a student in the school’s International Baccalaureate program, thanked those in attendance for securing the capital.

“For over 155 years, this school has produced a plethora of successful people,” said Evans. “The investments will make a positive difference in our education careers [and] will strengthen Hyde Park Academy for generations to come.”

Emanuel said the investments “back up” the school’s academic performance, particularly its IB program, noting that the freshman on-track graduation is 92 percent.

“Kids cannot be what they cannot see,” said the mayor, “but if they also see what’s in front of them —not only a great education but the investments that follow with that — they also can dream.” He said that Jackson wanted to ensure that Hyde Park Academy “has the look and feel that matches the academic gains that are happening.”

Noting that the presentation was occurring in a classroom where she had taken social studies — one that had recently been re-floored and painted because of the CPS investments — Jackson lauded students in attendance for making a choice to get an education and “be better than the previous generation.”

“I know sometimes that’s not an easy choice and that you have to overcome a lot to be here,” she said. “But I think it’s critically important for you to know that you matter and that there’s somebody in a leadership role in Chicago Public Schools who is a champion to make sure you have everything that you need to match the hard work that you’re doing every single day.”

Jackson lauded two of Woodlawn’s elementary schools — Fisk, 6020 S. Langley Ave., and Carnegie, 1414 E. 61st Place, whose principals were at the event — for their pre-IB programs and Hyde Park Academy’s principal for his leadership.

“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” said Ross. “We had orientation in late August. When the students walked in the doors, seeing their eyes light up when they see all the renovation and things they were coming back to school to was extremely heartwarming to me.”

Ross ascribed his school’s receipt of funds to luck, its previous advocacy and pursuit of investments and its location near the designated site of the Obama Presidential Center campus.

“We were making great gains; our staff was showing up every day working hard, and our students were working hard,” he said. “So hopefully they just recognized our commitment to excellence from our students and decided to go ahead with investment behind [them].”

Ross estimated that the first phase of renovations — the ongoing work on the school’s exterior walls and roof — would be completed by the beginning of the next school year; they were told that they received the additional $20 million a few weeks ago.