Mayor tours Taft to see result of improvements


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

That announcement was made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a tour of the school on Aug. 26. 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, painting and science lab renovations. Construction, which started last spring, is running ahead of schedule and under budget, Emanuel said.

The physical improvements at Taft and the conversion of the school to a full International Baccalaureate Program curriculum have changed the 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 said. "Taft will now be the choice on the Northwest Side."

Taft has had the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which is intended for high-achieving students, since 2001, but the curriculum now is being implemented in all classes. The program stresses critical thinking and independent study projects.

The program was initially intended as a "backup" plan for those who did not get accepted by a selective enrollment high school, Emanuel said. However, an increasing number of families now recognize the merits of the program’s rigorous curriculum and its ability to help get program participants get into top universities, 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 such as 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 he and other public officials saw the need for renovations and repairs during a tour of the school several years ago. He said that that the project will help the school realize its potential.