$11 million Modernization Project to Increase STEM Access for Students on the Far South Side

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennetttoday announced the launch of a modernization project at Dunne Technology Academy, a K-8 Level 2 school on the Far South Side, to incorporate a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focus. These efforts include building new science and engineering labs to support the school’s transition to the STEM school model and other facility upgrades, and furthering the City’s efforts to strengthen our neighborhood schools through the expansion of seats in STEM, International Baccalaureate and other high-performing programs across the city.

“Every child in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them for success, and expanding access to rigorous educational programs in elementary school helps lay the academic groundwork for their future,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This investment is another step to ensure students across the city graduate 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound. As we’ve seen time and time again, when you set the bar high, Chicago’s students rise to meet the challenge.”

Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel and CEO Byrd-Bennett, the District has made critical investments to expand high-quality school options for students across the city. This project, slated to begin in the fall, will include the construction of a new multipurpose facility equipped with two lab spaces to support a 21st Century STEM school model, as well as a new gymnasium and a direct interior link to the adjacent existing building.

“CPS is committed to providing a wide range of academic enrichment opportunities that offer our students access to the instruction and tools for 21st Century success,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “The implementation of the STEM program at Dunne will provide students on the Far South Side another opportunity to engage in a rigorous academic program and the demands of high school.”

As indicated in the District’s 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP), Dunne requires interior and exterior renovations, ADA modifications, an updated air conditioning system and several other site improvements. The total cost of the capital project is $11 million. Of this total, $7 million has been allocated by the District in our capital budget. The additional $4 million comes from State Senator Emil Jones, 14th District and State Representative Bob Rita, 28th District.

“I’m pleased to finally achieve funding for major structural improvements to Dunne Technology Academy,” said 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin. “I’ve worked with Principal Byrd-Wright to identify the school community’s priority needs in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office, CPS and the supporting community. I would also like to acknowledge 28th District Representative Rita and 14th District Senator Emil Jones, III, in this collaborative effort that will result in further raising student outcomes.”

Additional improvements to the campus will include the replacement of the existing outdated playground, the installation of a turf field, significant ADA accessibility improvements including a new two-stop elevator and considerable overall facility improvements to the existing building.  These improvements to the structure will include the replacement of the roof and windows, creation of a new parent room and a new diverse learner’s room, significant technology upgrades and cosmetic uplifts throughout the entire school, which was built in 1971.

By adding STEM programs at the elementary level across the city, CPS is providing students with access at an earlier age prepare them for rigorous college preparatory experiences in high school. The District’s five Early College STEM schools allow for students to collaborate with a corporate partner for mentorships, job shadows and internships to prepare them for career success in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students at the schools are also engaged simultaneously in college coursework through a partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago, which allows them to receive dual credit toward a high school diploma and college degree. 

Since 2012, CPS has spent more than $1 billion since on necessary facility improvements that align with EFMP. The Plan, adopted in 2013, calls for safe, supportive learning environments that include sufficient space for all students, equitable access to advanced technology, play lots, modern computer and media labs, air conditioned libraries and ADA accessibility. This year, the Mayor and CPS have been working on capital improvement projects across the City that represents the EMFP’s larger plan to increase quality education options by investing in the following:

Five new IB elementary schools announced earlier this year – expanding the country’s largest network of IB schools.
For FY13, CPS invested over $375 million in capital improvements District-wide, including investments of approximately $155 million to support our welcoming schools.  These investments included new science labs, engineering labs, computers, wireless access, libraries, art rooms, air conditioners, and base building repairs. 
Capital improvements at Addams and Gallistel Elementary Schools, two of the most overcrowded schools in the District, and a new elementary school for the far Southeast side to provide another quality option to the community;
An expansion of Jones College Prep to  accommodate an additional 800 students by SY16-17;
And an expansion of the nationally ranked Walter Payton College Prep by additional 300-400 seats.

These investments are part of the modernization strategy led by the Mayor’s office and by CPS that includes partnering with the community to address core priorities for the EFMP plan: investing in infrastructure at our current neighborhood schools, addressing overcrowding, and increasing high-quality education options for students and parents.               

Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 665 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.