Back of the Yards High gets IB program, neighborhood library

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel, flanked by students and schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, announces that the new Back of the Yards High School will house a Chicago Public Library neighborhood branch. Photo by Mark Chong Man Yuk.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, flanked by students and schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, announces that the new Back of the Yards High School will house a Chicago Public Library neighborhood branch. Photo by Mark Chong Man Yuk.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday afternoon that Back of the Yards High School, slated to open in fall 2013, will offer a “wall-to-wall” International Baccalaureate program and house a neighborhood library branch in its building.

He had announced in March that the city would open 10 new IB programs – five whole-school programs, including one at Back of the Yards and another at Senn High School in Edgewater – and five new programs in existing neighborhood high schools.

It was not immediately clear what the school’s enrollment policy would be. Brizard emphasized students would not have to test in, but said they would be chosen by their “drive and affinity with the program.” He said students in the neighborhood will get priority for enrollment.

After 10th grade, students will be able to take individual IB classes (similar to Advanced Placement classes), pursue an IB diploma, or participate in a new IB career-education program.

When pressed on whether his get-tough school strategy had backfired, leading to Monday’s Chicago Teachers Union announcement of a landslide vote for strike authorization, Emanuel said that “my goal is to make sure we have an education system that puts our children first.”

He also touted recent agreements over McCormick Place and the police and firefighter wellness plans, as well as CPS’ agreements with SEIU and UNITE-HERE, as evidence that he is trying to build a collaborative relationship with the city’s unions.

Mayra Lopez, an organizer with the Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based community development agency, says many in the community still have unanswered questions about how the school will serve students with average performance.

“Are all the students going to have to take IB? Is there going to be an alternative track? I don’t think a lot of the students in the neighborhood are prepared to go into an IB curriculum after 8th grade,” she says.

And, she says, the school – which only has room for 1,200 students – will only be able to serve about half of the 600 8th-grade students who graduate from Back of the Yards elementary schools each year.

“What happens to the rest of the students – are they still going to have to go to Richards and Tilden, and deal with the problems they had before?” she asks.