CPS `welcoming schools` to get $155M in renovations - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

CPS `welcoming schools` to get $155M in renovations

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The most glittering part of Mayor Emanuel's proposed school consolidation is putting $155 million worth of new labs, libraries and other improvements in the so-called "welcoming schools" by August 26. Skeptics have their doubts.

The man in charge of executing the plan is a 26-year veteran of the Marine Corps. Before he retired, the Joint Chiefs of Staff assigned him to transform America's War Machine to better combat the terrorist threats we now face.

Pipes protrude from walls where drinking fountains used to be, paint is peeling, plaster is cracking, and some student desks are a mess. Perhaps no surprise that enrollment at the West Side's Robert Emmet Elementary--built exactly a century ago--has shrunk by one-third. It's on academic probation and officials claim it needs $11.5 million in repairs and upgrades.

"It simply would not be the responsible use of the resources that we have," says Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of CPS, Tom Tyrrell.

Tom Tyrrell's a former Marine Corps colonel. Having commanded a light armored reconnaissance unit, he was eventually promoted to the Pentagon, working directly for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a multi-billion dollar project. After only a few months at the Chicago Public Schools, he's now boss of $233 million in School Consolidation improvement projects: central air conditioning, new libraries, new labs for science and math and massive computer upgrades, including a new IPad for up to 30,000 students.

"The report card that I and my transition team want? We want to get straight A's," Tyrell says. "That we kept every single promise that we made to every single child that was impacted by the transition."

CPS proposes to close Emmet, moving its 450 students either to Duke Ellington or to Oscar DePriest--a glittering new campus built in 2004.

In addition to a music and media room, DePriest has a large library with 20 computers open 62 hours a week to students and parents. CPS said Tyrrell's team will invest at least $1 million to upgrade labs and equipment that are already far beyond anything the kids at Emmet have ever seen.

Interactive smart boards installed in two classrooms in January have been a huge hit at DePriest.

"If the children made a mistake they can go back and erase what they did," the assistant principal says. "The teachers love it. The children love it!"

The difference between newly-built DePriest and the century-year-old Emmet School is stark. Some of the proposed school consolidations involve buildings where the contrast is not as stark.

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