SOUTH SHORE — City Council approved a controversial plan to turn the old South Shore High School into a police and fire training center Friday afternoon.
In an online meeting, aldermen voted to allow the city to continue leasing the former school site through September 2028. The approval came without debate.
The training center at the shuttered high school, 7627 S. Constance Ave., was created under a federal consent decree that requires ongoing training for officers on de-escalation strategies and accountability for their use of force.
A specific curriculum for the training center has not been completed yet, but the site will be used for all officers on the force, according to former Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi. There are few restrictions on the types of training that could be conducted there.
The ordinance only mandates the site be used as “a training center” and that police and fire departments follow the Board of Education’s aquatic safety policy if they renovate the pool for scuba training.
Residents can expect a greater police presence around the former school site and Rosenblum Park, 7547 S. Euclid Ave., Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said.
Residents and community leaders raised concerns about the plan before it was approved by the city’s Housing Committee in March. Neighbors said Mayor Lori Lightfoot failed on her promise of a broad community input process, as they didn’t get time to properly vet the plan.
“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,” Lightfoot said on the Ben Joravsky show last year.
Harris hosted two meetings on the plan. One was held in April 2019, before Lightfoot took office.
The latest meeting was held March 6 — a Friday night — with little notice ahead of time. No notice was posted to the alderman’s website or social media accounts, and flyers were only distributed along blocks of five streets nearest to the school.
When asked why a notice wasn’t posted online, Harris’ director of community engagement Alvin Rider it’s “just the way we operate our office” to only publicize meetings to residents who would be most impacted.
It’s unclear if any resident input helped shape the plan since Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced it last year. In March, Rider referred questions about resident feedback to the mayor’s office. A spokesperson for Lightfoot referred specific questions about the input process to Harris’ office.
South Shore residents have been essential to “this inclusive and collaborative process,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “The city will work hand-in-hand with the South Shore community during the temporary use of this facility.”
Residents will be able to utilize the building’s auditorium for community meetings and recreational and performance activities, according to the mayor’s office.
The South Shore High School building has been vacant since 2014, when school operations were moved to the newer South Shore International College Preparatory High School, 1955 E. 75th St.
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