The city plans to replace the school system’s “Sputnik-era” science labs with “Tesla-era” ones, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday.
The 82 renovated or new high school science labs will cost taxpayers $75 million, city officials told WBEZ ahead of a Tuesday public announcement.
“You can go into one school … and you see the standard you want, and you go into other schools and the laboratory looks like it was there when Russia launched Sputnik,” Emanuel said. “The fact is, we’ve got to change that.”
The science labs are not included in the limited capital plan released by the school district earlier this month. More school construction projects financed by a new $45 million city property tax levy are expected to be announced in the coming months.
In all, 45 percent of the district’s 184 high schools will get new state-of-the-art science labs. Schools that aren’t getting labs include charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, most privately run alternative schools, and other district schools with recent renovations.
The new labs come one year after Chicago Public Schools changed the science graduation requirements. Now, all students must pass three lab science courses — biology, chemistry, and physics — in order to graduate.
The mayor’s Schools Chief Janice Jackson said teachers and principals at some schools have been asking for new science labs ever since.
“When we improved the graduation requirements, that was one of the things that came up from a lot of our staff members … that they needed new labs,” Jackson said.
Jackson said installing state-of-the-art science labs is about “equity across the district.”
Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. You can follow her @beckyvevea.
This story was updated to reflect new numbers released by the city late Monday evening.
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