Back in the 1960s, Chicago schools were taking heat for "Willis wagons," which were portable 20-foot-by-36-foot aluminum classrooms installed during the term of Schools Supt. Benjamin C. Willis.
Now, the buildings in Chicago's educational cross-hairs are "Butler buildings" on the Chicago City Colleges campuses.
Both the new City Colleges chairman, Gery Chico, and chancellor, Cheryl Hyman say the pre-engineered metal Butler buildings set the wrong tone for aspiring students.
"I don't think either one of us agree that the image that we want to project is of pulling up to a college campus and seeing Butler buildings," Chico said in an Aug. 5 meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. "You find that at Olive-Harvey [and] Daley College. It is not right. ..."
"The facilities of the City Colleges are worn and dated in many places. We do have some very nice facilities like Kennedy-King College, a $267 million project on 63rd Street in Chicago - it was a wonderful project. We just completed the Truman College parking garage, a 2,000-car parking facility on the Truman campus. And we have some other projects that are in the midst of being completed right now. ... [But] you go to a community college, you go to Will County, you go to Lake County, you go to DuPage County, you look at some of our other competitors, you are not pulling up to the facility and seeing some metal painted-over building as the welcoming sight. That's crazy."
Hyman agreed, saying, "What sort of expectations do [students] have for themselves if this is where they are learning?"
But upgrading those campuses won't be easy, especially in an era of tight budgets. Chico knows that himself from his prior experience running Chicago Public Schools and dealing with the remaining Willis wagons.
"Those things wound up taking decades to get rid of, and it was only when we decided to invest what turned out to be $3.3 billion in capital improvements that we were able to get rid of a lot of those," he said.
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