Student group wants better washrooms
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Feb. 5 meeting learned about a student committee seeking improvements in the school’s washrooms and received a brief glimpse on how the school’s new freshman academy could improve student achievement.
Teacher Bridget Doherty Trebing introduced members of the Taft’s Student Voice Committee, which she said began meeting last school year.
The committee has launched a campaign calling for improved maintenance of the student washrooms at the school and plans to provide "comment mailboxes" in which students can submit their answers to a questionnaire on a variety of issues.
The students told the council that while funding is not available for major renovations, they would like to see a fresh coating of paint in some of the bathrooms and that necessary repairs be made. They said that at times restrooms are flooded due to pipe issues.
The Chicago Public Schools is encouraging schools to create a Student Voice Committee as part of an initiative to form partnerships between children and adults to better address student concerns.
LSC members encouraged the committee to work with student LSC representative Liam O’Shea, who is part of a group that has been monitoring the condition of the bathrooms.
Taft assistant principal Patrick Levins said that measures are being taken to address the bathroom issues and that the school administration is interested in all of the committee’s concerns.
It also was reported that the school’s on-track freshman rate this school year is 89.5 percent. That figures measures the percentage of current freshmen expected to graduate on time based on current grades.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that he expects the figure to be higher next school year when the new freshman academy is open at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave. He said that having a freshman campus should lead to better collaboration among freshmen teachers, who will be focusing on strategies to address student needs during the first year of high school.
In addition, even a small improvement in the on-track rate will help the school achieve Level 1+ performance status, which is the highest in the school system, Grishaber said. "We need to get to 90 percent," he said. Taft has been a Level 1 school for 4 years.
Construction of the freshman academy is scheduled for completion by around Aug. 1, Grishaber said. The three-story school is expected to have an enrollment of about 1,200 students, including the seventh- and eighth-graders in the Taft Academic Center.
Taft’s leadership team recently met with officials at New Trier High School, which has had a separate freshman campus for nearly 20 years.
"We picked their brains, and they were really receptive of us," Grishaber said.
Due to the opening of the freshman campus, the school system created a preference boundary for graduating eighth graders in the nearby attendance areas of Bridge, Canty and Dever schools. Students living in the preference zone are not guaranteed admission to Taft and are admitted when space becomes available. Steinmetz remains the home high school for those students, but most are expected to seek enrollment into Taft.
About 200 CPS students applied to Taft from the preference area, and all of them will be able to enroll at Taft, although some could still opt for a private or select enrollment school, Grishaber said after the meeting. It is not known yet how many private school eighth-graders from the preference area applied to Taft, he said.
Grishaber also reported that one of his future endeavors would be to secure funding for a new pool at Taft. He has described the existing non-regulation size pool as a "bathtub."
The next LSC meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the school.