Taft HS families rally to help recently enrolled refugees from Ukraine and Venezuela; need for regulation-size swimming pool discussed at Taft LSC meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Oct. 11 meeting discussed volunteer efforts to help the school’s 70 recently en- rolled refugees and the need for a regulation-size pool.
“Taft is a giving school,” principal Mark Grishaber said. “We have to take care of these families (and) make sure they have a real good meal at Thanksgiving.”
Grishaber reported that the school recently enrolled about 60 students from war-torn Ukraine and 10 students whose families re- portedly migrated from Venezuela.
More than 50 students and their families have volunteered to serve as sponsors for the refugees.
“Some of these families are starting from nothing. Imagine if you were uprooted and relocated to another country where you don’t speak the language, and you don’t even know how to use public trans- portation. That is where the Taft staff and families can help,”’Grishaber wrote in a recent letter to the Taft community.
“By help I mean provide some food for them during the Thanksgiving holiday. Find out what gifts the children would like for the hol- iday season in December and possibly buy the gifts for them. This would be the minimum ask but if you wanted to go above and beyond that, I know our families can be creative.”
The new initiative is called “RESPECT,” which stands for Refugee Engagement Support Program Enriching Taft.
In recent weeks several thousand migrants have been transported from Texas to Chicago. While the vast majority have been bused to the city, a family of 12 migrants was flown to O’Hare International Airport, from which they were picked up and dropped off near Foster and Austin avenues, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.
ALSO AT THE MEETING, concerns were expressed about the school’s indoor pool, whose size is not regulation for sanctioned competition. A parent said that the girls swim team is having a lot of success despite not having the proper sized pool to swim in, add- ing that the length is about five yards short and the width about two lanes short.
“It’s been my passion for … years
to get a bigger pool,” said Grishaber, who became Taft’s principal in 2014. He added that schools with “full size” pools can be found at selective enrollment schools.
Grishaber reported that he had hoped to have a new pool built at the freshman campus at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave. but that school system officials have said that there are plans for a new pool to be constructed at a centralized location in the city and will be available for high school competitions.
It also was reported the school’s freshmen on-track to graduate rate is 97.1 parent compared to the 87 percent the school was stuck on for years, according to Grishaber.
The increase is due large part to the creation of the freshman campus, which allows teachers to better identify struggling students and get them help, and the new grading policy, which sets the lowest grade on an assignment or test at 50 percent, Grishaber said.