With the Obama Presidential Center proposed for Jackson Park, the University of Chicago’s continuing development along 61st Street, and a myriad of other projects large and small, residents are asking: what will Woodlawn become? This is the first article in a series investigating the past, present, and future of the neighborhood.
On the night of April 3, an officer of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) shot a student in the grips of a mental health crisis. Charles Thomas, who had been wielding a metal pole and smashing windows, and who the officer identified as undergoing a mental health crisis before shooting him in the shoulder, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Streeterville to receive treatment. Over the following two weeks, he was charged with eight felonies, including assaulting a police officer.
Three students—an apprentice violin-maker, a veteran, and an aspiring novelist—sit around a sparse but cozy room in a college residence hall in west suburban Naperville. The eclectic trio makes up about one-tenth of the student body of what is now called the Shimer Great Books School, a program of North Central College and the latest iteration of a storied 165-year-old Illinois institution. Just this past September, campus building Seybert Hall became Shimer’s central administrative locale after the school was acquired by North Central. Prior to that, it independently operated as its own accredited institution for about a decade while renting space on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Bronzeville campus.
For D’onminique Boyd, it was the 65th Street Community Garden that turned Woodlawn into a home. She had moved there in 2011, and had taken to biking around to familiarize herself with the neighborhood. One morning, she biked by the garden and saw Tony Samford, 65th Street’s “godfather of gardening,” as she would later come to call him, tending to his plot. She asked what he was growing; he told her to come back the next day at 6am, and he would teach her.
How’s the community garden doing?” That’s a question that 6th District State Representative Sonya Harper asks in most of her meetings with the city of Chicago, just for good measure. The city’s response to Harper is usually that the garden is doing fine, and that nothing’s changed.
Harper High School is the oldest neighborhood school in Englewood. Over the last century, thousands of residents have graduated from there. Yet last month, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close Harper High School in the next few years. It is, by all accounts, considered a failing school. But for those who go to Harper now, the decision threatens to tear apart the social fabric that’s been woven across generations.
The Near South Side is one step closer to getting a new neighborhood high school—and the National Teachers Academy (NTA), an elementary school for a small but densely populated strip of the area, is one step closer to closing its doors. Two weeks ago, the Chicago Board of Education approved Chicago Public Schools’ controversial Near South Education Plan, which will repurpose the elementary school’s campus as the site of the new high school.
The third in a series on pretrial detention