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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Two Bronzeville Schools Getting New Streetlights To Make Student Commutes Safer

Work is underway on the $300,000 project through ComEd, which will install solar-powered streetlights at the two schools.

Washington Park as seen from above on June 21, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WASHINGTON PARK — Two Bronzeville schools are the latest to have renewable off-grid streetlights installed on their campuses as part of a ComEd community program focused on sustainable energy.

Work began on Walter H. Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., and Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy, 3663 S. Wabash Ave., in mid-June. Seven streetlights — five at Dyett, two at Perspectives — manufactured by ARIS Renewable Energy will illuminate paths around the schools, making student commutes safer.

The lights are part of ComEd’s Community of the Future program, which launched in 2016.

The initiative uses “smart grid” technology to address community needs in underserved neighborhoods. In April, ComEd announced it would expand the program to Rockford. The energy company is also collaborating with Illinois Tech on an app that gives users a walking tour of Bronzeville.

Two other area schools — Dunbar Vocational High School and Beethoven Elementary — have participated in the ComEd program.

Credit: Lee Bey
Walter H. Dyett School, 555 E. 51st St., David Haid and Kenneth Childers, 1972

Cory Foster, ComEd’s external affairs manager, said the schools were selected by an advisory council of civic and business leaders with ties to Bronzeville.

“The council suggested the opportunity at Dyett High School because of the lack of lighting at Washington Park and the safe passage needed to ensure students’ safety,” Foster said. “With Dyett being in the park, there are a lot of trees and dark pockets, so it’s just a matter of making students feel safe. We also wanted to partner with another school in the 3rd Ward, which is how we landed on Perspectives. Geographically it made sense to do.”

Credit: Provided.
Solar-powered streetlights were installed at Bronzeville’s Dunbar Vocational High School in 2019 as part of ComEd’s “Community of the Future” initiative.

ComEd project manager Hannah McGoldrick said the cost to install the streetlights, which feature auxiliary power sources combining wind and solar energy, will be close to $300,000. The lights will also have battery storage and a self-powered internet connection that allows for remote operation and monitoring. Equipping the streetlights with wifi could be a great help for students who may need to use their cell phones to make calls, McGoldrick said.

The energy supplier also is collaborating with administrators at both schools to develop a STEM-based curriculum related to the project, McGoldrick said. That’s similar to what it’s done at Dunbar and Beethoven, where students learn about solar power and other forms of emerging technology.

“At Dunbar, we provided an energy academy, where we did a pre-and post-test on their education levels and interest in the energy and utility industry. We saw a big increase in education. They might have known a little bit going into it but after the curriculum they were full-on experts,” McGoldrick said. “We’re hoping to have the same response at Dyett and Perspectives.”

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