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New Englewood high school gears up for fall opening: ‘It means a lot’

The inaugural class of Englewood STEM High School attends a "signing day" ceremony. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The opening of a new state-of-the-art public high school this fall in Englewood was previewed Saturday with a “signing day” ceremony for the school’s inaugural class.

The new high school marks a change in fortune for the South Side neighborhood that has seen school closures in recent years and hasn’t had a new school open in decades.

The event held Saturday morning in Kennedy-King College’s gymnasium featured a graduation-like ceremony — proud, boisterous parents included — for the students that will soon attend the three-story, $85 million “STEM” school that will serve grades 9-12.

Englewood STEM High School will focus on science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, and is being built at 6835 S. Normal on the former campus of the shuttered Robeson High School. Initial Chicago Public Schools projections place 300 to 350 students in the open-enrollment school’s first class, almost all of whom live in Englewood.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said accessible neighborhood public schools are vital for students’ success, especially for Englewood students who have had to make long commutes to attend schools miles away from their homes.

“Our design was to ensure this was a neighborhood school,” Jackson said. “We’re so excited to bring a high-quality option right here in their backyard that the students can go to and be proud of.”

The inaugural class of Englewood STEM High School listens to CPS CEO Janice Jackson. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times
The inaugural class of Englewood STEM High School listens to CPS CEO Janice Jackson. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Jackson acknowledged there have been “band-aid” solutions to address Englewood’s lack of quality school options in the past. But this new investment, she said, is a step in the right direction.

“What we’ve done here is to reinvest in this community,” Jackson said. “I’m from communities like this. I know what type of inequities exist and the things that people have experienced.

“I can now look at parents who live in the Englewood community and say to them there’s a high quality option for their child,” she said.

Like Jackson, the school’s founding principal, Conrad Timbers-Ausar, is a former CPS student-turned-educator. He was previously principal at a charter school in Bronzeville and the founding principal at two alternative schools.

The inaugural class of Englewood STEM High School poses with the school’s founding principal, Conrad Timbers-Ausar (at podium). | Nader Issa/Sun-Times
The inaugural class of Englewood STEM High School poses with the school’s founding principal, Conrad Timbers-Ausar (at podium). | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

“For people to have quality opportunities within arm’s reach is important,” Timbers-Ausar said. “It’s very difficult when you feel that the best is not easily accessible to you. It’s about providing something for students in a community that hasn’t had a new school since the 70s.”

One of the parents at Saturday’s ceremony, Tanisha Pryor, is sending her son and daughter to the new school just blocks away from her home. She said she expects the school to be a stepping-stone to more job opportunities and reduced crime in the neighborhood.

“It means a lot,” Pryor said. “I look forward to a better education — a real good education that’ll put them college-bound.

“I was planning to relocate to another state so my children could go to a good school,” she said. “But since they have this opportunity here, I’m staying.”

Editor’s note: The article has been updated to correct the spelling of the school principal’s name.

Englewood STEM High School debuts a new logo. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times
Englewood STEM High School debuts a new logo. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times