SOUTH SHORE — A recently-surfaced city plan to turn the shuttered South Shore High School into a training academy for police and firefighters is on hold for now.
The city’s Department of Fleet Management entered into a lease with the Board of Education in October, with the purpose of turning the closed school at 1955 E. 75th St. into a police and fire training facility, according to proposal submitted to City Council by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In March, the mayor asked City Council to sign off on a lease extension— which is needed if the city wants to keep the property agreement for more than 180 days. A vote on the matter was slated for Tuesday, but Ald. Joe Moore (49th), chairman of the Housing and Real Estate committee, said it’s not happening yet.
Moore said Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), whose ward includes the high school, asked that the vote be delayed. Harris has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
The move to turn the closed high school into a police training academy comes amidst backlash from activists and the Chicago Teachers Union. CTU President Jesse Sharkey called the plan “a slap in the face of the community.”
In March, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot faced backlash when she suggested that closed schools be considered as alternatives to the controversial $95 million police and firefighter training academy coming to the city’s West Side.
The proposal infuriated the #NoCopAcademy movement, a group that has been calling on elected officials to reject the police academy and put the $95 million into communities instead.
As the Sun-Times reported, Lightfoot later attempted to clarify her remarks — and said there will be no schools converted into anything without community input.
“We were talking hypothetically about what do you do to make sure the police officers are well-trained,” Lightfoot said on the Ben Joravsky show. “Nothing will happen on my watch, and certainly not the repurposing of those 38 schools that remain on CPS’s ledger, without going into the community and talking to people about how we can turn those schools into their assets.”
Moore said at this point, the South Shore proposal won’t be up for discussion again until Lightfoot is mayor.
“This will be the last committee meeting of my tenure as alderman, and the last housing committee meeting for this City Council, and all the agendas will be wiped clean when the next city council takes over,” Moore said. “So if the next mayor wishes to introduce a new ordinance, it will be heard by whoever is the chair of the housing committee at that time.”
Sharkey said the entire concept of a police academy in a former school is problematic.
“We’ve fought for years to end the schools-to-prison pipeline – and this lame duck mayor’s response is to put police in a shuttered high school whose closure further destabilized this long-neglected neighborhood,” Sharkey said. “South Shore residents deserve adequately funded schools, access to living wage work, and economic development that supports the residents who live there – not an outpost for law enforcement when residents’ relationships with Chicago police remain so frayed.”
South Shore High School closed in 2014.
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