Tuesday, January 12, 2010

University Considers Expanding Laboratory Schools to Doctors Hospital Site

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Early Childhood Center concept rendering for the U of C Laboratory Schools, grades N - 2.

David Magill, the Director of the Laboratory Schoools, announced to his faculty and staff last Tuesday that the University of Chicago and the Laboratory Schools were exploring the possibility of using the Doctors Hospital site at 58th and Stony Island Avenue to build an Early Childhood Center that would service Grades Nursery through 2. (The existing building would be demolished.)

The Laboratory Schools launched its ambitious Lab+ Campaign in July of 2007, to raise capital "to bring new resources to every aspect of the Lab experience," including major building renovations and expansions. Their architects (Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and FGM Architects) have been struggling in the last year to fit a new Art and Music wing and the Early Childhood Center (ECC) on the existing school campus without sacrificing too much green space...and having a little trouble doing it.

Meanwhile the University has been scratching its head about what to do with the Doctors Hospital property, which has become even more of a decrepit white elephant in the 14 months since the residents of the 39th Precinct voted their precinct dry to prevent the construction of a much-needed hotel. (The vote was 255 to 235, showing how little it takes to keep this neighborhood down.)

One apparent solution to everyone's problems is to demolish Doctors Hospital and build the new ECC in its place. The University unloads the space in a way that neighbors couldn't possibly object to, and the Lab Schools gets a state-of-the-art, possibly LEEDS-certified, custom-made facility without cramming it on the existing campus.

When enrollment peaks at the Lab Schools, Mr. Magill says there will be 2,050 students in grades N - 12. According to him, no other independent school has as many students per acre, even if the ECC is ultimately built on Stony Island. Moving grades N - 2 to the space offered on the Doctors Hospital site would allow the school to "fully actualize program possibilities." For instance, the new site could potentially satisfy a dream of the N - 2 teachers to have a fluid connection between outdoor and indoor curricula, and it would reduce congestion along 59th Street, allowing for a safer drop-off and pick-up routine on both campuses. The conceptual plans for the building (there are no architectural renderings yet) include contiguous outdoor-indoor spaces for each classroom, its own physical education facilities, and its own library.

Community Meetings

According to Steven Kloehn, Associate VP for News and Public Affairs, this proposal is exploratory only, and has not yet been approved by the Trustees. In cooperation with the alderman, the University would like to start a conversation with the community about the proposed use of the site, with the goal of uncovering what issues the community might want the University to attend to as the plan is refined. Ann Marie Lipinski, VP for Civic Engagement, met in December with a discussion group of 12 - 15 people with particular interest in the Doctors Hospital site (neighbors and at least one preservationist with architect credentials). There will also be a public meeting in the coming weeks to elicit feedback from the larger community. Mr. Kloehn says the goal of the meetings is to get the word out and to build consensus before going forward.

At some point there might also have to be two meetings held by the City -- one to announce the amended initial use, and possibly another to notify residents that a building designated with "orange" status in the Chicago Landmark Historic Resources Survey has been slated for demolition (an orange designation requires an automatic 90-day hold on any demolition plans).

So, suppose the University does build "community consensus" around this plan with its public meetings, which I assume it will? Is the proposal a good idea for the Lab Schools? That's the discussion that interests me the most. I have early misgivings (based on my educational philosophy and my family's experience) about breaking the Lab Schools campus into two pieces if there's any way in the world to make it fit on one. Yes, the University is eager to find a non-controversial use for its sad white elephant. Yes, the Lab Schools needs to expand. As a Lab alum and current Lab parent, I hope we won't leap to the "easy" solution without carefully thinking through the ramifications such a decision would have on the unique character of the school.


Georg said...

This is splendid.

U of C crowds out more scarce HP space for exclusive use of insiders...

... to preserve Lab School's green space (look across the street to the Midway!) ....

... With zero addition to the tax rolls or community life.

On the positive side, it would be divine justice for the NIMBY ghouls occupying Vista, for whom there could be no greater torture than endless screaming children on recess, rumbling idling school buses, and perpetual pickup/dropoff douchoisie traffic jams. And they though noisy bar mitzvahs would be bad!

Elizabeth Fama said...

"Douchoisie?" Not nice, Georg. Or maybe you really meant "Duchossoisie" -- the traffic jams at DCAM.

It's unfair to say that the U of C "crowded out" the Doctors Hospital space for "exclusive use of insiders." The U. bought an abandoned property, and tried to build a major hotel.

rdb said...

Also, lab is about evenly split between U of C and non-U of C families.

My initial reaction as a Lab School parent is that the convenience would be a godsend, but I would worry about interraction between the lower school students and the middle and upper school. Lab has "partner" arrangements that pair up young kids (say, pre-K) with older kids (say, 4th or 5th grade) throughout the year. It would be a shame to make those partnerships more difficult and infrequent.

Greg said...

I love the idea. Anything to get that dead eyesore out of there and something useful in its place.

It wouldn't go down without a fight though. Remember, one of the "big reasons" the Marriott Hotel plan was blocked was because the NIMBYS wanted Marriott to reuse the existing structure. If the U tries to go in there and tear down that building again it will start all over again.

John said...

Sounds like a good idea. I like the rendering--lots of light.

Elizabeth Fama said...

John, those are the renderings that the architect drew up for the existing campus. So it would have that general feel in either location.

RDB, those are exactly my worries. But there are many more. At one point I had a Lower Schooler, a Middle Schooler, and two High Schoolers, who all saw each other daily in the halls and walked to school together. The younger kids could really internalize the space and activities they were growing into. The older kids weren't immersed in a sea of only their peers. And then there are the facilities and the faculty: the gym teachers will be completely separate at the ECC -- but I like the fact that they teach so many varied grades right now they understand each child's ability and development. The same nurse has comforted kids as they've grown from Nursery through High School. Blaine Library is amazing, and the collection shouldn't be broken up (many 2nd graders read at the 4th grade level).

I could go on and on. The important thing is that there are many schools with separate campuses, and Lab is practically unique, having one campus. It's not something to throw away lightly, just because we happen to have this vacant property on Stony.

gogomama said...

What this post doesn’t address is what will be done with the Woodlawn properties currently used for nursery school. Be careful not to stare at the magician’s hands. The Woodlawn nurseries are adjacent to the old CTS/new Milton Friedman Center. (Does anyone know yet if/where the Seminary Co-op will go?) These Woodlawn nurseries are just two of several old houses that the University owns in the area. Some are used for offices and some have sustained a lot of “deferred maintenance.” What will eventually happen to these?

The proposed EEC could be a great facility and an asset to the neighborhood. But Elizabeth Fama and RDB are right about loss of community in a two-site system. Think about traditions like Halloween parade, 100 day, pretzel day. Think about volunteer activities like Blaine Bookstore, Bookswap. Serendipitous encounters in a shared space. (Lobby sings?)
Then there are the balance-sheet issues about staffing two sets of computer labs, music classes, gym classes and administrative offices. (Who will get the bill?) Any school has community traditions that change over time, but the Lab's one-site model has built some great social connections. Like the 1st grade teacher who refs High School basketball. The foreign language teacher who teaches 3rd graders and High School seniors. The U-High students who volunteer to give lower school students some extra math or reading help. The moms of high schoolers who still work the lower school book swap. It's not exactly a one-room schoolhouse, but one of the best aspects of Lab are these cross-grade and enduring relationships. A two-site system would present an obstacle for the teachers, students, and parent volunteers who have always sought to build these connnections.

Traffic and walking/biking will be an issue. Families with >1 child across two schools will not have fun, especially if they do not live close enough to walk. Fridays should be a gas. The streets around Stony and 56th are closed at dismissal time for the safety of Bret Harte students, so anticipate careful route planning. (Another reason to open 57th and Stony to west-bound traffic, right?) Expect some false starts, and hope no one gets hurt. (Remember when the Booth parking entrance/exit was planned for 58th/Kimbark instead of Woodlawn? ) Lab parents have already developed two "unofficial" pick-up/drop-off points and they might develop more, but not always the safest, alternatives.

Sorry to be so long, but it is a complicated proposal.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Sorry, I should have mentioned that the Lab Schools will give up the Woodlawn houses no matter where the new ECC is built. The houses will revert to the U of C, and I have no idea what they'll be used for.

Gogomama is making great points, and I hope people will bring up these issues with the Lab School administration. Keep that list comin', Gogomama! The single-campus model has provided so many hidden benefits that strengthen the community. David Magill told me he's committed to continuing the "buddy" program between N - 2 and higher grades, and there will be a dedicated shuttle between the campuses, but spontaneous interactions won't happen, and a foot of snow is pretty daunting, even if you've already scheduled a buddy hour and there's a bus to keep you dry.

Linda S said...

Have the architects offered up a set of plans for community viewing that addresses desired programming needs on Lab’s existing site, including plans that do not compromise existing athletic facilities, either? As with all final decisions, trade-offs and compromises are ultimately involved. Would it not be interesting just to see if such a scheme could work, and then to compare it with what was recently put out on the table?

I, too, am gravely concerned about the Lab student experience that will no longer exist once the school is split into two distinct and separate divisions. As part of UChicago, Lab has been “at the forefront of education” because of its tradition of offering a holistic education that builds year-after-year via an all-inclusive learning experience within a singular campus of connected facilities. If I am not mistaken, applications currently outweigh acceptances by at least 3-to-1 (despite the quirky facilities). Parents still vie to get their children accepted to Lab; they want their beloved youth to benefit from the truly unique learning atmosphere that exists only at Lab. I believe it would be a shame to start a new tradition at this juncture just because a piece of property exists that might enable a more amiable use to its adjacent property owners. At what expense do adults make decisions that risk the unraveling of some finely woven fabric that has continued to clothe Lab, keeping it warm and wonderful, for over 100 years? Lab’s facilities are far from perfect; “cramming” more onto the existing campus will be a challenge. Life, however, is not perfect. And, confronting challenges by critically thinking out solutions is precisely what Lab teaches its students to achieve. So…maybe the students should answer the call.

Chicago_mom said...

At the risk of angering many long-time and loyal Lab families, alumni, and supporters, may I suggest that the school’s gargantuan size already presents many challenges in the lower school, and the key to solving them is to focus on what’s happening in Lab buildings, not the location of those buildings? I think the lower school is so big that kids get lost in it. I don’t mean physically lost, I mean emotionally. In the course of four years in the lower school, one of my children had four different gym teachers, four different music teachers, four different art teachers.....well, you get the idea. Too many different adults, and not enough connectedness and continuity between one child and one adult.

In my mind, it would be far better to have fewer (perhaps less “specialized”) adults in the school lives of these children, so the adults come to know those kids better. The trick is to set the school up to create smaller pockets of warmth and community–kids, teachers, staff. If this means going to a “school within a school” concept at the lower grades, then so be it.

Previous comments here reveal concerns about losing some school-wide or cross-grades activities, programs, and experiences if the new building is built, and I agree those issues should be considered. But I have to say, for all the praise heaped on the Halloween parade, lobby sings, and the like, I found them to be absolutely scary and overwhelming and not at all conducive to developing warm bonds of any sort. In my mind, they are simply too big for the youngest of students. On the other hand, I believe the cross-grade “buddy” programs have been wonderful for my children, on both sides of that program, in large part because they are individualized and small-scale. But, honestly, those programs work well in a lot of places under a lot of different circumstances, so surely there is a way to make “buddies” work when the school has two (nearby) school locations.

This new building proposal has already generated thoughtful comments and questions about traffic, logistics, and the likely impact on the school’s educational and social aspects. I hope that discussion continues, with room for many points of view. In the meantime, let me have it--I know you all want to tell me why I’m wrong! I just didn’t want this whole post and comments to be one big ol’ love fest. So, go ahead–comment away!

Linda S said...

Perhaps one thing that is annoying some old-timers, like me, is that there now seems to be some urgency, coming from Lab, about forcing a decision to split the school. The master plan effort by SOM took a year; the initial programming and design efforts by VDT/FGM have taken more than another year, and the work of these firms were done on the basis that the Lab+ project would be contained on Lab's current campus. So, why is it that, all of a sudden, cutting away Grades N-2 from the rest of the school is such a big priority? It wasn't one before. I agree, wholeheartedly, that more discussion needs to take place. Has faculty heard what parents have said? Have parents heard what faculty has said? Is there a forum (besides this blog) in which stakeholders can listen to one another? Ample efforts should be afforded to make sure all decisions that impact the true beneficiaries of the school…Lab students (not necessarily their parents)…are the best that they can be. As for the gargantuan size, Lab is not going to get any smaller; the University needs it to be bigger, for logical reasons. By the way, if you look carefully at the recently presented proposed ECC site plan and imagine driving down and around to drop off your child, you might notice that the driver’s side of your car, rather than the passenger’s side of your car, abuts the building. Little Sally or Harry will be required to walk in front of or between cars to enter the building. Scary? Now, that’s a simple fix…flip the plan and the car line. All of the details make the difference. So, what is prompting the sudden rush? Think it all out. Let’s don’t just jump into a buy-in just because the grass might look greener on the other side of the fence (or, in this case, the other side of the tracks) or because more grass for grazing may now be out there. Again, I reiterate, at what price do adults make decisions that risk the unraveling of something that has worked for the student body, pretty darn well, for 100+ years?

chicago pop said...

As a Lab outsider who neither attended the school nor intends to send his kid there, but who understands the importance of Lab to the University, to Hyde Park, and to the tradition of progressive pedagogy in the United States, the thoughtful comments above bring a few further thoughts to mind:

1) Ladies -- for it is clearly the ladies who have the most to say here -- where have all the fathers gone? (Yes, I'm presuming most of you are straight hetero couples, forgive me if not). Was John Dewey the last man in progressive Hyde Park to concern himself with the nitty-gritty of children's education? Or is this still women's work? Prove me wrong here!

2) In the comments above only two reasons given for keeping things the way they are based on something other than nostalgia and a sense of tradition: Elizabeth Fama's argument that only Lab has all the grades growing together in close proximity, and that this is therefore a competitive advantage in marketing Lab against its competition with its peer institutions; and rdb's mention of programs that pair older with younger students in mentoring relationships.

If Lab is to live up to its name as a laboratory of progressive pedagogy, and not another private institution that has accumulated a number of traditions such as one might find in any English or East Coast boarding school, then the questions of separating grades should be based on how children from K-2 are best educated. This is a scientific question.

Is it really in a crowded building where 1st graders are running around with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders? Or are their needs fundamentally different, and perhaps better served with a facility that allowed for more specialization at the K-2 level? These are pedagogical questions that should receive pedagogical justification of as much weight as parents' fond memories of all-school activities.

3) Will resistance to change at another Hyde Park institution generate another movement to "Save" it because we liked it the way it was?

chicago pop said...

Georg's "perpetual pickup/dropoff douchoisie traffic jams" -- though mordant and prejudiced, I must admit is also comically inspired.

Linda S said...

Quirky?...yes. Crowded?...hardly. The question of separating grades would have never presented itself if Lab had not been offered the opportunity of taking a part of (not the whole) Doctors Hospital property. Now that Lab has been made such an offer, there seems to be a rush to simply seize it, regardless of what the answer to the scientific question of what's best for grades N-12, not just grades N-2, may or may not be. Elizabeth's argument that only Lab has all the grades growing together in close proximity, making Lab better than its peer institutions, and rdb's mention of programs that pair older with younger students in mentoring relationships, are precisely what is at stake of being lost with any split. I don't live in Hyde Park so I cannot speak to a Save-It-All mentality. I am also not that nostalgic about outdated facilities that have been chopped up over the years. I believe the collective learning environment gives Lab grads, among many other things, a greater ability to cope with people from all walks of life. As an itsy-bitsy example, U-Highers can't get away with a lot of shenanigans simply because their environment, which includes little people going down to "the caf" or passing from Blaine to Belfield daily, doesn't allow it. Such awareness and sensitivity to others carries with them outside of and far beyond their time at school. I ask again, is there a solution that enables Lab to achieve its expansion needs without sacrificing outdoor PE space within the confines of its existing campus?

chicago pop said...

... "what the answer to the scientific question of what's best for grades N-12, not just grades N-2, may or may not be" may provide justification for separating the grades, regardless of what the Lab School's other motivations may be.

Elizabeth Fama said...

The issue isn't really about resisting change, Chicago Pop, since grades N - 2 were going to be split into a separate building anyway, and the first building that the architects were designing on the existing campus was also going to take the teachers' progressive pedagogy into account. The issue is where the ECC will be built, and what we might lose in hidden educational and social benefits versus what we gain with a bigger facility. (First graders won't be running around the halls with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in either case; but the the old plans, before this Stony Island option became available, included a walkway between the buildings to at least allow for that interaction.)

And, hey, I didn't interpret Gogomama's list of the all-school traditions to be resistance to change or sentimentality. She was simply listing some of the activities that promote this unique, across-grades community and are possible only because of the single-campus model.

Sure, the Lab Schools has some warts, Chicago_Mom. But it only took a year in L.A. researching the finest schools for my family to come home with a renewed appreciation for what works at Lab. And on our list of pros and cons, way back in 2000, with four kids 8.5 years apart in age, this was literally at the top of the "pros": "Lab has N - 12 all on one campus."

chicago pop said...

Thanks for the clarification on the separation of grades Elizabeth. I didn't know that was part of the previous as well as the current proposal.

Linda S said...

Agreed. Allowing for rather than having to find (force?) ways to make interactions possible, as well keeping a successful N-12 (all-together) environment, will be lost with the ECC on Stony.

Lightningrodd said...

I've lived in hyde park for several years now and one thing that drives me crazy is how everyone acts like the lab school is the greatest school in the world. I attended public schools in evanston, and i had a great education. From reading reviews of lab school, parents seem to act like what is going on there is unique, but it really isn't. I think a lot of parents compare lab to CPS schools, which is really apples and oranges. Compare the performance of students from a public school like new trier, stevenson, or evanston and you'll get similar results, especially when you compensate for the fact that lab isn't open enrollment.
A myth that follows the lab school is that it is a melting pot and inclusive. In reality it isn't. Almost all the the students come from families that are associated with the university, meaning they are well educated, typically wealthy, and politically connected. You could put those kids in oak park, walter payton, st ingatius and they would do as well. Most of the students who go there live in a small world. They live in hyde park/kenwood, go to school with the same students for 13+ yrs, and mostly only associate with one another. A lot people talk about this connection that lab students have, but in my opinion it is actually negative. They live in a city of over 3mil,but most associate themselves with people from a small geographic area and they are part of a small cohort. This is like people who live in gated communities. People talk about this diversity and inclusiveness, but in reality it is neither. It may have some racial/ethnic diversity, but it has little socioeconomic diversity. It is typical of liberal progressives to say they want diversity, but often times wall themselves off in their own communities and institutions. How many of those students in lab even know what is south of the midway or west of cottage grove? The school breeds this naive elitism in the students. They think they are worldly and accepting, but at the same time they almost exclusively stick to a narrow group of friends who have a similar background.
It's about time that someone call out the school for what it is, elitist and overpriced. Some people expressed concern that if they acquire the doctors hospital site than that "unique" lab experience of having all the students under one roof will disappear. In almost every other school system it is normal to change schools once in a while. However, it is considered a virtue here that stay in one place with same people for 12+yrs. And they wonder why is it that within a few minutes of seeing and talking to a student or alumni that you knew they came from lab. they are sheltered there, and really live in there on little world. The students lack creativity and some basic social skills. Of course people will talk about the music,language, and other programs at the school as if that by osmosis they can experience the world and soak up creativity. Their parents confine them to such a small space that the school can't compensate for it. Chicago has a lot of culture to experience, how often do they experience it, and i am not talking about going to downtown chicago to gallery or a play. I think it would be a good thing to split the school up. For one thing it will be a change in scenary, the location is further away from the university and therefore they'll just see different people walking, and also there is a nearby public elementary school that maybe they can have some cross programs with. So if splitting up the school is what it takes to partially break them out of their shell and comfort zone, than i am all for it.

chicago pop said...

OK, since I found some material linking the idea of multi-age, non-graded educational settings to John Dewey, I can see a justifiable case being made that keeping some basis for an "all-together" experience would keep the Lab true to some of Dewey's early pedagogical insights.

John Dewey was one of the early 1900 vocal opponents [of graded classrooms]. He felt that children learned best from their elders and that mixing the ages of the children was a natural way of learning. He felt that the current schools of the time (l930s) needed to be “liberated from their inflexible conceived subject matter” (Longstreet, et. al., 1993, p. 72) and groupings. It was not until 1959 that the challenge to age segregation in schools became more prevalent. It appeared in the form of the book, The Nongraded School, by John Goodlad and Robert Anderson (Pratt, 1986). In this book, the authors documented the variability in intellectual, emotional and physical growth of children and adolescents. They stated that “grouping children homogeneously on the basis of a single criterion (age) does not produce a group that is homogeneous to the same degree judged by other criteria…Consequently teachers who proceed as though their class of gifted or retarded pupils were homogeneous are fooling themselves and cheating their pupils.” (Goodlad & Anderson, 1987, p. 17)."

Chicago_mom said...

Hmmm, chicago pop, so why not let the new building (maybe even on Stony Island) be a K-8 facility for whatever the planned N-2 enrollment would be? Why not have a real Lab school again? Maybe people would really like to have their kids in a small, multigrade school. High school is another matter--Lab is a high pressure prep school then, Dewey or not Dewey.

Lightningrodd: you make some strong claims, but interesting and, I think, somewhat valid ones. I'm especially with you on the diversity issue. Along standard socioeconomic lines, that's a real laugh at the Lab school.

edj said...

I'm a Lab School parent, but gre up with siblings with a ten year spread were we had kids in high school, junior high, and elementary school all at te same time. I have to admit that it didn't seem to do any of us any lasting harm.

I don't see any particular difficulty in having separate buildings for K-2 and 3-12. In fact, I tink it's a little weird to have them all in one building.

Sure, the buddy system, between lower grades and higher grades iis nice, but it's not why we go to Lab. The Lab has some good facilities, but the Lower Chool building is crap. The heating and cooling system are awful and classrooms, well, are not optimal for learning.

Lab has good teachers and it has bad teachers (some spectacularly bad, believe me). What matters for any good school, public or private, is that the parents are strongly committed to seeing tat they are involved in their kids lives and educations. Building a second building isn't going to cange that. It might be more difficult to have upper grade buddies, but I think that everyone will manage.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Lighteningrodd seems to think the ECC could help to shatter the "insulation" for the Nursery through second grade students, but it's designed to do the opposite. The biggest argument by planners is that there can be outdoor spaces that are completely insulated from the neighborhood around it (courtyards enclosed by the building itself), so that children can move fluidly between classroom and green space. Their second biggest argument is that (the already impersonal, anti-communal, in my opinion) drop-off and pick-up by vehicle can happen more smoothly and safely and efficiently.

Regarding socioeconomic diversity at Lab, the fact that half of the student body comes from faculty families actually provides more financial diversity than comparable private schools in the country. (I'm not speaking about public schools here.) English professors don't make a lot of money, for example, but the half-off tuition allows them to send their kids to Lab. Faculty members are not typically wealthy (other than perhaps a few doctors or Booth professors), and they're not nearly as wealthy as the parents of the rest of the Lab Schools population, or the population of any other private school. There is also a fairly robust scholarship program. In our school search in L.A., we looked at comparable private schools, and no matter how much racial and ethnic diversity they strove for (which they did), all of their students got new cars from their parents for their 16th birthdays! If you want to see overpriced, look at other private schools with tuition nearly 10K more than Lab.

Hey, the Lab Schools exist to provide a benefit to University faculty and staff. And of course, being me, I would argue that there's a certain intellectual, nerdy quality to the school that results from this population that is a good and interesting thing (and unfortunately, dwindling somewhat). Someone has got to churn out that sort of "life of the mind" adult, too, right? Not every student can be molded into a John Rodgers. (Oh, wait, he went to the Lab Schools.)

Finally, community service is required in high school, and students do go "south of the Midway and west of Cottage Grove" at that point, including tutoring kids in public schools and working in food kitchens, etc. Younger grades also participate in charitable fundraising (e.g. Heifer Int'l) and local projects (e.g. used book drives for homeless shelters, valentines for sick kids at Comer, etc.). I'm not sure what Lighteningrodd bases his opinion on with respect to insulation in that respect.

Linda S said...

I don't think anyone is suggesting that a good, or even a great, education doesn't exist elsewhere. The question boils back to what Lab professes to be, what it is, and what it wants to be going forward. I whole-heartedly agree that there is a drift from Dewey's original intentions. In recent years, maybe it's more like a lava flow of conspicuous, consuming, trendy things. And, I really do not know what sort of mandates are being pushed or advocated by the powers that be. Regardless, I reiterate: Is it possible to achieve Lab's expansion needs on the current campus without compromising existing outdoor athletic facilities? If the Stony site is ultimately not approved (...is that highly unlikely at this juncture?...), then the architects will need to go back to the drawing table. In doing so, that question is bound to arise. Well then, why not have a "Plan B" on the back burner? Who knows, by exploring such an option, the effort might serve to open some eyes, make more people think a little harder about the alternative, and cause us all to question the reasons behind our actions...sort of what Lab teaches its student body, yes? I know, I'm probably dreaming here!

Lightningrodd said...

Elizabeth Fema didn't address my points.I'll start w/last point
I stated that the "typical" student probably doesn't venture south of midway and west cottage grove.You responded by saying, "community service is required in high school, and students do go "south of the Midway and west of Cottage Grove" at that point",do you not realize what is wrong w/ your statement?They're going into those communities to do community service,which to me means they aren't interacting w/ them as equals.This is the same mentality that exist with missionaries that go to the "third world".
Second, you must be kidding me when you mention the school having real diversity, racial/ethnic or socioeconomic. When i refer to racial/ethnic, you must keep in mind the context of the neighborhood and surrounding communities. Although, the school does have non-white students does it doesn't even come close to reflecting the south side or even hyde park. As for socioeconomic diversity, i had a good laugh at your comment. Out of ~2000 students, how many of their parents do you think are make less than the median income for illinois, chicago, and hyde park? The numbers are probably small. You asked where i am getting my info, interesting question to ask. The Lab school doesn't publish any demographic info. Don't you think true socioeconomic and racial/ethnic diversity is something to be proud of? Most schools would have this info on their website. Lacking this info, you can get an idea from talking to alumni, looking at who's getting dropped off, and other unofficial sources of info.Clearly, the reason they don't publish the info is because it would quickly reveal lab school to be an elite bastion. By your same logic, Latin and Francis Parker are fairly diverse as well. By the way,i went to evanston township high school, do a quick google search and you'll see what a real diverse school is.
Finally, like i said before, the lab school is a good school. What makes lab school look even better is when you contextualize it to the south side and CPS. However, i hate the way some people in hyde park act like it is the best in the world, and that it has these innate qualities, that no other schools have and that can't be copied, that make it so good.hearing everyone talk about it reminds me of the attitudes that some people have about the Ivy League and all other colleges. It is a very condescending POV. Ask the average person about lab and they really can't tell you what is so good about it, they'll give you very broad ideas, but no real specifics. I think this is done for two reasons. First, if you are going to spend upwards of $20k per yr for K-12 education you better really believe it's a good school, or do everything to talk yourself into believing it is. Secondly, most students and parents of lab are liberal/progressive/elite. It comes down to a simple fact, most of the people there talk the good game about diversity, inclusiveness, holistic education(whatever that means, well roundness, etc, but at the of the day they probably put their kids there because it's the best local option, and because they want to be around people of a similar to themselves. I am a black man, i can't tell you how many white upper middle class people i've met that have told me how important diversity is to them. Yet they always wall themselves off in all white neighborhoods, most of their friends/colleagues are white, and they send their kids to all white elite private schools. It all boils down to one word at the end of the day, hypocrisy.Next time that you hear someone talking about Lab, ask them if they ever considered Murray Language Academy, Ray Elementary, Kenwood Academy(they do have a highly rated accelerated program, or even the selective high schools like Witney Young or Walter Payton Prep.

HP said...

One of the reasons I am so pleased as a Lab parent is that they are teaching my kids to build themselves up without tearing others down.

Tom Panelas said...

Can a university really scratch its head?

Elizabeth Fama said...

Hey, Tom, don't forget I writed a book.

Jean said...

It never ceases to amaze me that we get so excited about tearing a building down and putting it in the landfill in order to build a LEED certified "environmentally correct" building. Why is there no discussion about reusing the hospital building-surely the best option for the environment and possibly a very good option for the children?

Richard Gill said...

"Why is there no discussion about reusing the hospital building-surely the best option for the environment and possibly a very good option for the children?"

There has been discussion, ad nauseum, about reusing the hospital building, and the opinion of architectural professionals has been that it will not work. Notwithstanding the unacceptable cost of salvaging and reconfiguring the building, the hospital is not suitable for use as a hotel, as proposed earlier, nor as a school. Among other problems, the ceilings are too low, the clear spans are too small, and load bearing walls are in the wrong places. It wouldn't even work as a hospital anymore. The old hospital is a rotting corpse, and its continued existence is a blight upon the neighborhood.

In a January 15, 2010 editorial, the Chicago Maroon got it right when it said, "Those who opposed the [hotel] plan cited concerns over congestion, the developer's union policies, and the [hospital] building's historic interest. Their drastic move to halt development left the decrepit hulk standing, a trophy of sorts for Hyde Park's most intransigent preservationists."

Probably, the highest and best use for the sorry old hospital building would for filming a demolition chase scene in an upcoming movie. Then finish tearing it down, so the only focus will be on what will take its place.