UChicago celebrates groundbreaking for new charter school in Woodlawn

Calmetta Coleman
Director of Communications for Civic EngagementUniversity Communications

Community leaders and state and local officials joined President Robert J. Zimmer on Sept. 14 to celebrate the start of construction on a state-of-the-art high school in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Public officers who took part in the groundbreaking included Gov. Bruce Rauner, state Senator Kwame Raoul, and Ald. Willie Cochran of the 20th Ward.

The building, expected to open on 63rd Street in late 2017, will provide a new home for UChicago Charter School’s Woodlawn campus, which serves students from Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhoods. It also will be available for community use.

The facility will offer space and resources not available at the school’s current building, which previously housed Wadsworth Elementary School and lacks capacity for meeting core middle and high school curriculum needs. UCW currently rents multiple additional spaces off campus to fulfill the curriculum needs of its students, including athletic fields, a gymnasium and library spaces. The new UCW facility will offer technology-equipped classrooms, engineering and science labs, a media arts space, an athletic field and a college resource center.

The Woodlawn campus currently serves 650 South Side students in grades six through 12. It has a strong track record of preparing its students for college acceptance and graduation, with 100 percent of its graduating seniors accepted to college for the past five consecutive years. The University is investing in the new UCW facility with support from external funders.

“The UChicago Charter School is an important part of the University’s commitment to help prepare our city’s students for college admission and success, and to develop models of excellent urban education,” said Zimmer. “The new facility will provide additional resources to support the demonstrated potential of UChicago Charter students. We are deeply grateful to the donors whose contributions have enabled this project.”

“This facility embodies the high expectations that we have for our students and provides a space that supports their accomplishments,” said Elizabeth M. Thompson, University trustee and chair of the UChicago Charter School board of governors. “It is a great reflection of the work of the University, the Charter School and the Woodlawn community.”

UChicago Charter serves 1,900 students across four campuses in South Side neighborhoods, including Woodlawn. The new building, which will be located on the corner of 63th Street and Greenwood Avenue, will allow UChicago Charter to serve 100 additional students at its Woodlawn campus.

“At the University of Chicago Charter School, we are dedicated to creating a college superhighway that cultivates critical thinkers and leaders,” said Shayne Evans, chief executive officer and director of UChicago Charter. “By building our students a facility where they can grow academically while developing a sense of personal agency, we are showing them that we believe in them. We believe they deserve every opportunity for success.”

The school’s new location will be easily accessible by public transportation, with stops for the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line and the Metra less than half a mile from the facility’s main entrance. The facility is also expected to increase foot traffic and vibrancy along 63rd Street.

“This new facility will not only be a place where local students can continue to excel, but it will also be a resource that brings benefits for the broader community,” said Cochran. “This is one example of partnership between the Woodlawn community and the University of Chicago, and we look forward to seeing that partnership continue to grow."

Construction on the new building began in June. UCW staff are expected to move into the facility in December 2017, and students will begin taking classes there in January 2018.

UCW parent Dorva Underwood's children have attended UChicago Charter since first grade. While she has encouraged them to focus on learning rather than the current building, she said she believes the new facility will make a difference for all UCW students. “When you come in and see a beautiful facility, you want to do better. It promotes a better mentality,” she said. “I'm very proud to say I'm a parent here.”