Narrated by Erisa Apantaku
ERISA APANTAKU: Everyone we talked to, we asked: how do you feel about the closing of Robeson High School? Here’s Liz Chambers, from the class of 1978.
LIZ CHAMBERS: “I am sad about it honestly, I think its an end of an era that was different than now. Maybe it needs to close to get a new start because I see everything changing not for the better, so its sad for us that attended but it might be a good thing for those attending in the future.”
APANTAKU: We also asked what do you want to see in the new school.
CHAMBERS: I want to see students that are really engaged in learning, not just going because my mother told me I had to leave the house, so there’s somewhere to go, somewhere to sell some drugs, somewhere to do anything that not conducive to learning. I want them to be active, engaged learners there.”]
APANTAKU: That was James Eggleston, the math teacher who left after the reconstitution. For some, the school closing still seems unnecessary. Why not invest more in the schools Englewood has instead of building a completely new school? Here’s Keith Harris.
APANTAKU: In an email response, CPS Press Secretary Emily Bolton wrote that from 2008 to 2017, $600,000 dollars were invested into the interior and exterior of Robeson High School, including things like new lockers. Since 2010, $700,000 has been invested in Robeson’s programming, things like after school programs, social and emotional learning initiatives, and career and technical education.
APANTAKU: For Theodria, the new school is an essential part of a fresh start for the neighborhood and the kids who live there.
CONSTANOPLIS: My granddaughter is in Seventh Grade Right now, so I'm looking towards high schools for her, um, I had not been thinking about Englewood. In fact, I've been looking at other schools. Um, when this proposal came about that there was a new school in, you know, coming up I thought about, oh, OK, I'll think about it. [...] The new school. I thought when I went to the meetings about the plans, I thought it was a good fit and a shot in the arm for the community.”]
APANTAKU: Robeson students had their last day on Tuesday. The school is being torn down and a new, $85-million school put up in its place. Some alumni we spoke to wish that the new school would do one thing at least: keep Robeson’s name. It would be a way to preserve the institution’s legacy in the Englewood community.
SHIRLEY HARRIS: (sobbing)
APANTAKU: This project was partially supported by an Illinois Humanities Grant. Additional support came from South Side Weekly and City Bureau. Additional reporting came from Tytania Holliman, Jed Lickerman, Jasmine Mithani, and Hafsa Razi. Special thanks to Blackstone Bicycle Works for helping us recreate a food fight. Lastly, thanks to all the Robeson Raider alums, students, and staff that shared their stories with us. If you’re a Raider who wants your memories of Robeson High School preserved, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like to support our, visit www.southsideweekly.com/donate to see how you can fund local journalism projects such as the one you just heard.