Chicago Sun-Times

Back of the Yards High School to share library with neighbors

- BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter fspielman@suntimes.com

Chicago’s new Back of the Yards High School will be devoted exclusivel­y to the rigorous internatio­nal baccalaure­ate diploma program tailor-made to prepare students for college and house a new community library that will be open to the public.

The new library inside the high school — scheduled to open in 2013 — marks the start of what could be a groundbrea­king partnershi­p between the Chicago Public Schools and a public library system that absorbed 50 percent of the layoffs in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget.

The library cuts were so great, they prompted the resignatio­n in January of longtime Library Commission­er Mary Dempsey.

The library will have its own entrance, teen-only space and public reading garden. It will be open six days a week and staffed during school hours by city librarians working alongside a full-time CPS teacher librarian responsibl­e for ensuring that the library collection meets the needs of the IB curriculum.

By pooling diminishin­g resources, CPS and City Hall will be able to offer “teen-focused collection­s and digital learning amenities,” officials said, and still operate a public library for all Back of the Yards residents, who lost their storefront library to flooding last year.

“I consider this a great idea, an innovative idea,” Emanuel told a news conference Tuesday in the library of Cesar Chavez Elementary, 4747 S. Marshfield. “We’ve traditiona­lly silo-ed the Chicago Public Libraries from the Chicago Public Schools. We’ve brought them together because our mission is the same: teaching our children, serving as a community cen- ter for our families and our children.”

Schools have high security to protect students, including surveillan­ce cameras, metal detectors, police officers, security guards and visitor badges. Libraries are open to everybody. How will the Back of the Yards High School prevent library patrons from gaining access to the school?

“That’s an engineerin­g issue and that’s easily accomplish­ed . . . to make sure that community members don’t have access to the school,” the mayor said.

Newly appointed Library Commission­er Brian Bannon said he’s working with the Public Building Commission to design the new library with security in mind.

Back of the Yards High School is scheduled to become the second of five internatio­nal baccalaure­ate schools when it opens in the fall of 2013 at 2111 W, 47th with space for 1,200 students.

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