Bus route sought for new Taft campus
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School administrators are seeking a more direct CTA bus route that will transport students from Edgebrook to the school’s new freshman campus at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave.
The planned Taft Freshman Academy, which is opening in September, was discussed at the March 28 meeting of the Edgebrook Community Association. Currently, Taft has 46 freshmen that live in Edgebrook.
Currently it takes about 45 to 60 minutes to get from the intersection of Devon and Central avenues to the site of the freshman campus via public transportation, with two or three buses being required.
Another option is taking a train from the Edgebrook Metra Station to the Mayfair Metra Station and then taking a bus west on Montrose Avenue, according to Google Maps.
One parent said that the 45-minute route only works if the students are on time for the connections and that students may have to leave their home as early as 5:45 a.m. to guarantee being at school by 7:30 a.m.
Taft assistant principal Eric Flores said that the school is looking into the possibility of the Chicago Transit Authority creating a special route that would make stops along Devon and take students to the intersection of Milwaukee and Devon avenues.
From there, students would then catch a bus that would take them south on Nagle Avenue, from which they would exit at Wright College on Narragansett Avenue and walk to the academy. Existing routes run through the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, but a Devon-Nagle route would be more direct and save time, Flores said.
Taft also is exploring the option of allowing freshmen to ride the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center bus that makes a pickup at Edgebrook School, 6525 N. Hiawatha Ave. The academic center is being relocated this fall from the main campus at 6530 W. Bryn Maw Ave, to the academy.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that parents would be willing to pay a fee to have their freshmen ride the academic center bus but that the school system has refused over the years to grant high school students access to these buses.
Another transportation issue raised at the meeting was related to after-school activities.
While the freshman teams are expected to practice at the new campus, the school is working on providing a shuttle for freshmen that make a varsity team and need to get to the Bryn Mawr campus.
Grishaber said that under a pilot program some schools have been granted permission to have their own bus and that he hopes Taft will be granted a similar permission. A 12-person bus would cost $60,000, compared to the $130,000 which Taft spends a year on transportation, he said.
In addition, the freshman campus will have a wide array of clubs that will meet at the academy, according to Taft assistant principal Ryan Glowacz.
It also was reported that the freshman campus would be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the varsity campus from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Both campuses will be operating near their ideal capacity, "but we can go up if (we) have to," Grishaber said. Currently Taft is operating at 157 percent of its capacity but that should drop to under 100 percent once the freshman campus opens, he said.
A teacher is supposed to be assigned to the same classroom for the entire school day and that the classroom then stays empty when the teacher has no classes. Teachers at Taft have been sharing classrooms so that they are used each period, Grishaber said.
The curriculum for the freshman campus is being designed to instill leadership skills in students and provide them the resources needed to succeed academically and socially, Glowacz said.
Each student will be assigned to one of eight "houses" where they will attend their core academic classes, but each house will consist of students from across the educational spectrum, Glowacz said.
"We won’t have, for example, an IP Diploma house," he said.
The teachers in each house will be meeting to better address the needs of students who in some circumstances could be experiencing a drop in academic performance due to a family or other issue, Glowacz said. An example would be a teacher noticing that a student has suddenly stopped turning in homework, he said.
It also was reported that the freshman campus would feature an eight-lane outdoor track, uncommon for the school system, Glowacz said. Taft also is expected to have access to a sports complex that the Chicago Park District is building just to the north of the freshman campus.