Is greater Bronzeville a school desert?

There’s been a great deal of attention paid to “food deserts” in Chicago, i.e. neighborhoods where fresh food is hard to find.

More worrisome for Chicago’s future is the fact that large parts of the South and West sides of the city are school deserts, neighborhoods where decent public or private schools are non-existent.

Perhaps the most barren school desert in the city is Bronzeville.

The Tribune has a sobering report on the chaotic public school scene in the greater Bronzeville area, which it defines as “roughly bordered by the lake, 26th Street, the Dan Ryan Expressway and 57th Street.” The one bright spot in the area is King College Prep (pictured above), an “elite selective-enrollment high school.” King’s test scores wouldn’t lead many people to describe it as an elite school.

Private schools, most of them with religious affiliations, have traditionally provided Chicago parents with an alternative to hellish neighborhood public schools. Not in Bronzeville. According to Census data made available through the New York Times Mapping America page, with the exception of Census Tracts in east Kenwood and Hyde Park, the percentage of elementary school children attending private schools in the greater Bronzeville area is zero.

Is there any hope for the redevelopment of greater Bronzeville if it’s a school desert, as it appears to be?


  • Joe,

    I am deeply disappointed that you didn’t skewer the Tribsters for their definition of “greater Bronzeville”. Fifty seventh street? Really.

    Noted Chicago neighborhood boundary expert Joseph Zekas of YoChicago defines Bronzeville as “Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood encompasses the area from Pershing Rd (3900 S) north to 31st St, from King Dr (400 E) west to the Dan Ryan Expy.”

    On a more serious note gentrification in Chicago has often begun and continued for decades in neighborhoods with underperforming public schools. It seems that gentrification comes first and the public schools improve later after the newer residents demand better schools and often get directly involved.

  • IP,

    There have been, over time, a number of definitions of Bronzeville, some very expansive. The Trib’s is also legitimate and, based the neighborhoods mentioned, should have extended to 63rd St, the southern border of Washington Park.

    My boundary definitions correspond roughly to the historic district, which is really just a collection of buildings rather than a neighborhood. At the time I formulated this it wasn’t yet clear that “Bronzeville” was going to get the kind of public uptake that it has had describing a broader but not clearly defined area.

  • carmelcutie22 7 years

    Bronzeville ends at 51street, 57th street is washington park. Schools are what attracts many middle income parents to an area. The city has to get this right, the area has great potential to keep the middle class in the city. Also parents form the downtown area would be comfortable sending their kids to this area as they do now for the CHI arts school. This neighborhhod needs to turn the ghettoe dunbar H.S into a magnet school. It will attract a better selection of students that compliment the neighborhood. When the dunbar students get out of school
    there has to be police everywhere, and they trash the neighborhood. How does this make the area look to potential business owners? Also a magnet elementry school is needed. I have no doubt that middle class parents would be able to get in and some lower income people.