Taft HS plans to honor military vets at Sept. 3 Friday Night Lights game
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School is looking forward to a return of “Friday Night Lights” on Sept. 3 when its hosts Grant Community High School in a game that will include a halftime salute to military veterans.
“Friday nights … is an American high school football tradition,” principal Mark Grishaber said at the Aug. 10 special meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
Veterans will be assigned a special section to watch the game. The Sept. 3, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will be Taft’s third-ever Friday night home varsity football game, although one of those games had limited fans due to the pandemic. Taft’s multi-purpose sports field, which includes lights and spectator stands, was installed in 2019, as Taft’s previous “home” football games had to be played off-site.
The other Friday night games this fall will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 against Morgan Park Academy and Oct. 15 against Whitney Young Magnet High School (Homecoming). The other home game will be against Lincoln Park High School at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, and will include a celebration honoring first responders.
About 145 students turned out for Taft’s football program this year, Grishaber said.
Also at the meeting, it was announced that 4,401 students are projected for fall classes at Taft, but the final enrollment number is expected to be closer to 4,300 after school starts on Monday, Aug. 30. In some instances students may move out of the area or enroll at a private school.
Grishaber said that he expects Taft’s enrollment in the fall of 2022 to be about 3,200 on the varsity campus and about 1,300 on the freshman campus, including 180 enrolled in the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center.
“90.1 percent come from our neighborhood,” Grishaber said in reference to Taft’s 20 feeder elementary schools.
Students who live outside of Taft’s attendance area are eligible to apply for the academic center, International Baccalaureate Diploma Program or the U.S. Naval Junior ROTC Program.
Grishaber said that Taft’s increasing popularity could be summed up by a recent security guard applicant who told him that he wanted to work at Taft because its athletes are extremely polite when he works sporting events. “He was very sincere about his compliment,” Grishaber said. “It’s the culture we have here.”
It also was reported that Taft is receiving a “Moving Forward Together” grant of $495,000, some of which will be used to purchase band uniforms, books, guitars and digital pianos. The grant is part of a $525 million Chicago Public Schools initiative to help schools meet their individual needs.
Taft also is seeking to use the funds to hire an additional counselor, but finding a qualified candidate has been difficult, Grishaber said. “If we don’t have an all-star, we aren’t hiring that person,” he told the LSC.
Currently Taft has 11 counselors, according to Grishaber.
Also, several landscaping improvements, including the planting of rose bushes and the removal of dying crab apple trees, are planned for the Taft campus. “I’m really trying to make this campus like the Morton Arboretum,” Grishaber said.
It also was reported that the student fee is returning to $450 for the 2021-22 school year. It was lowered to $300 last school year due to remote learning.
The next LSC meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14.