Mayor Emanuel tours Taft


For the first time in decades seniors at Taft High School will not have to share a locker due to an ongoing $18.2 million improvement project.

That announcement was made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel during an Aug. 26 tour of the school. Joining Emanuel on the tour were Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Barbara Byrd Bennett, Taft principal Mark Grishaber, Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) and State Senator John Mulroe (D-10).

The project includes the installation of 1,100 new windows and hundreds of new lockers, tuckpointing and the renovation of several science labs. Construction, which started last spring, is running ahead of schedule and under budget, Emanuel said.

The physical improvements to Taft and the recent conversion of the school’s curriculum to a wall-to-wall international baccalaureate program have changed the community’s perception of Taft, Emanuel said. “More and more people in the neighborhood see what is going on at Taft,” he said.

“We all know that in the past Taft was a diamond in the rough,” said Emanuel, who was introduced at a school press conference by Taft senior Gladys Recalde. “Taft will now be the choice on the Northwest Side.”

Taft has had an international baccalaureate diploma program, which is intended for high-achieving students, since 2001, but the program’s philosophy is being incorporated in all classes. The program stresses critical thinking and independent study projects.

The international baccalaureate program was initially intended as a “backup” plan for those students who did not get accepted to a selective enrollment high school, Emanuel said. However, an increasing number of families are now recognizing the merits of the program’s rigorous curriculum and its ability to help get program participants get into the top universities in the country, he said.

“Chicago is now the largest IB program in the country, Emanuel said.

O’Connor said that the renovations along with a renewed interest by the school to work with community groups on events like the recent carnival at Norwood Park are long overdue. “I couldn’t be more excited about Taft’s bright future,” she said.

Mulroe said that the improvement project came about after he and other public officials toured Taft a couple of years ago. He said that that the project will help the school realize “the potential it has.”