Funding for new athletic field at Taft not available this year


The Taft High School Local School Council at its April 4 meeting received news that prospects for receiving a new athletic field this year are diminishing.

"It’s discouraging. We went from having a field to having to go drumming up money for a field," Taft principal Mark Grishaber said.

An approximate $3.5 million allocation for an outdoor facility with an artificial playing surface at Taft was listed last year on a preliminary capital improvement budget for the Chicago Public Schools, but the funds reportedly are no longer available.

"The want to see some investment from us, what they call ‘skin in the game," Grishaber said. "We will keep plodding away at it."

Grishaber estimates that the school would need to raise about $100,000 before the project would move up on the priority list. He said that while many other area high schools have a new playing surface, Taft is left with "a dirt field."

Several LSC members have said that the poor condition of the field poses a safety risk to players and that the school needs better facilities given the size of its athletic department. "Taft is the only (CPS) school that has every available sport," said LSC Athletics Committee chairman Joe McFeely.

About 45 percent of Taft’s 3,300 students participate in a sport, Grishaber said. "We need places to put them," he said.

There are plans for an outdoor sports facility at the new high school which will be built near Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue. Currently the school system is looking at using the new school as a freshman campus for Taft, but a final decision is a year away.

The council also heard a report on a proposal for Taft to hold a student retreat next year at a dude ranch in Oregon, IL. "I want a sophomore retreat because they’re like our lost children here," Grishaber said.

The retreat would include typical ranch activities like horseback riding and bonfires but also team-building experiences and anti-bullying discussions, Grishaber said. The school is hoping to keep the cost at $99 per student, he said.

Grishaber also reported that he recently met with officials at Luther North High School, which is closing this spring, to discuss the transition for those students who transfer to Taft in September. Luther North has an enrollment of about 170 students, and Taft could pick up as many as 50 of their students, Grishaber said.

In other news, about 600 eighth graders have registered to enroll in Taft next school year, but up to 200 more freshman enrollees are expected. In addition, 68 of the upcoming graduates in the Taft Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center, which is a gifted program with enrollment testing, have chosen Taft as their high school, compared to about 25 in 2014.

It also was announced that the school system may save about $230,000 in salaries at Taft due to the four unpaid furlough days which are in effect for CPS schools.

The council will have three parent member vacancies in mid-June, and applications to serve on the council are available in the school office, LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said. The council cannot choose replacements until after the school year ends, she said.

The next council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9.