Overcrowded Wildwood School to receive annex in 2015
by BRIAN NADIG
The number of classrooms at Wildwood School will double under a plan to construct an annex that is expected to open in the fall of 2015.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Wildwood will receive a $15 million annex during a Sept. 16 news conference at the school, 6950 N. Hiawatha Ave. Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) and state Representative John D’Amico (D-15) attended the conference.
The mayor’s announcement surprised Wildwood principal Mary Beth Cunat.
“I found out a few minutes before the press conference. The information I had up until that moment was the mayor wanted to make an announcement about overcrowding on the Northwest Side,” Cunat said. “My parents and staff could not be more appreciative.”
Wildwood has about 420 students and is operating at about 175 percent of its capacity, but that figure drops to 127 percent if the school’s 14-year-old modular unit is included.
The school has 11 classrooms and a science lab in the main building and four classrooms in the modular unit, and the annex will include 16 new classrooms.
Plans call for the annex to be built on the site of the basketball court along the west side of the school and for a new court to be built on the site of the mobile unit after it is removed in 2015. The nearby tennis courts, which were recently resurfaced, will remain.
The annex also will feature a lunchroom. In the past students ate in the gym but starting this school year students have lunch in a classroom.
Wildwood is a neighborhood magnet school that offers an international baccalaureate curriculum. About 100 of Wildwood’s students live outside the school’s attendance area, and a recent petition drive organized by a group of parents calls for the school to stop admitting additional out-of-area children due to the school’s overcrowded conditions.
Some parents had expressed concern that the school may not be considered for an annex because of its large out-of-area enrollment, but a top school system official said that Wildwood may be an exception to the rule because of its status as a magnet school. The school has a history of enrolling out-of-area children in an effort to gain additional teaching positions and to help diversify the school.
However, Cunat recently announced a policy change that could reduce the number of non-local children enrolling at Wildwood. Younger siblings of several existing Wildwood students were denied enrollment this fall.
Cunat thanked those who lobbied for the annex. “This effort combined with Wildwood’s deep commitment to implementing a strong, meaningful IB program, our high academic performance and our continued academic growth as a high performing school put is in a solid position for being a school in which to invest this funding,” she said in a statement.
A $500,000 interior redesign project at Wildwood recently created additional instructional space but left the school with a smaller library and no principal’s office.
O’Connor said that the recent news about Wildwood and planned improvements at schools like Oriole Park and Edison Park are a sign that an increasing amount of the city’s tax revenue is being reinvested on the Northwest Side. “These capital improvements won’t solve all the challenges facing our public schools, but they do represent a giant step in the right direction,” O’Connor said in a statement.