April 4, 2006

Woodlawn site approved for U of C charter school

In a decision that ensures the University’s third charter school will open this September, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education recently approved the site for Woodlawn High School.

The Woodlawn High School campus will be located in the Wadsworth facility at 6420 South University Avenue. It will share the facility with an already existing elementary school.

“There will be two great schools in the Wadsworth facility, expanding options for children throughout Woodlawn,” said Timothy Knowles, executive director of the Center for Urban School Improvement.

Though the facility has space for 2,000 students, it has a current enrollment of only 320. As a charter school, it will be run and funded by the University in cooperation with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.

The opening of the school is part of a wider campaign known as the Urban Education Initiative, which is designed to use University resources to improve primary and secondary education in neighborhoods such as Woodlawn. The approval of the Wadsworth facility solidifies the expansion and continuation of the initiative in the Woodlawn community.

Administrators plan to use rigorous course loads to prepare students for success in college. Students will face many requirements, including the study of algebra in eighth grade, three years of laboratory and social sciences, and double periods of math and English during freshman year in order to attain a total of five years of study in each subject.

“The educational program has been carefully designed to ensure all students have the social and academic supports, the leadership and extracurricular opportunities to be prepared for and succeed in a four-year college upon graduation,” Knowles said.

In addition, the school day will last from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in order to include time for study and other activities. The school year will last two weeks longer than the academic year of CPS.

Barbara Crock, director of the new high school, said she wants to capitalize on its unique relationship with the University.

“We are looking forward to establishing real connections between the high school campus and the University campus,” Crock said. “We’re also hoping to have our students come to the U of C for campus tours with their families, advanced coursework during their junior and senior years, physical education classes, and visits to the vast library and laboratory research centers.”

The charter school will also strive to maintain close ties with the Woodlawn community.

“All students will engage in community-based projects as part of their studies, ensuring the community is an integral part of life at the Woodlawn High School,” Knowles said.

The charter school’s Signature Programs, composed of three different projects, will connect students to both the University and the community. College students, graduate students, and faculty members will serve as mentors and volunteers from the community.

“Signature projects are intergenerational, multiyear research endeavors that require students, in collaboration with experts, to grapple with real-world problems faced by the community,” Crock said. “We will introduce three projects in the fall through introductory courses at the freshman level.”

The school will also operate as a center for teachers and administrators from across Chicago to study and develop effective methods for teaching and learning.

“Put another way, it will serve as a professional development locus—a place where educators can learn and work together,” Knowles said.

The high school has received more than 500 applications for 160 available slots in the upcoming school year. In 2006-2007 the school will enroll 50 students in sixth grade and 110 students in ninth grade, and then replace classes with groups of equal size as each grade progresses. In the end, the school should have 590 students in grades 6-12.

Applicants were selected at a public lottery held on March 23. Priority was given to residents of the Woodlawn community, siblings of students currently enrolled in the other two U of C charter school campuses, and students enrolled in eighth grade at the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School, which is another University charter school campus.