Swift School: Chronology


History of George B. Swift School 1914-2014
PreK-8th Grade Fine and Performing Arts Magnet School
5900 North Winthrop Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60660
On Jan. 24, Chicago Board of Education purchases property on west side of Winthrop at Thorndale at a cost of $3,500 for construction of new elementary school.
CBOE demolishes adjacent Edgewater School, branch of William Goudy School, to accommodate construction of replacement school.
In April, construction permit issued to A.F. Hussander, CBOE chief architect; construction costs projected at $225,000. Construction begins on three-story gray stone building of neo-classical design.
On Sept. 18, CBOE names school in honor of the late George Bell Swift.
Parents, community residents successfully lobby CBOE to includeswimming pool in construction plans, agree to finance and raise $80,000 to cover costs.
On Feb. 2, newly constructed George B. Swift School officially opens.
William C. Goudy Principal Harriet Eckhardt is appointed first principal.
Swift is third public school in Edgewater, fourth to serve grammar school students and
one of 27 elementary schools in Chicago Public Schools District 1.
Swift ends first academic year with 760 pupils, 18 teachers and principal in building with 24 rooms, assembly hall, gymnasium, swimming pool and equipment for manual training and cooking. All classrooms outfitted with one-piece stationary student desks nailed to floor in six rows of eight desks each.
Students dismissed at 12 noon to lunch at home, return at 1 p.m. for resumption of classes.
Long-time tradition begins: Upper grade students ring hand-held bronze bells at playground entrance, heralding start of morning, after-lunch classes.
Hattie Listenfelt is named Swift’s second principal, serves until 1948.
In March, $10,000 contract awarded to correct conditions caused by construction “settling.”
Swift observes its silver anniversary.
Field house on south playground continues to offer after-school extracurricular activities; students, supervised by two full-time physical education teachers, compete in north side intramural sports programs.
Eighth grade boys man crossing patrols on Winthrop and Kenmore between Granville and Bryn Mawr to ensure safety of students walking to/from school.
Uniformed adult crossing guards augment student patrols, stationed at Thorndale/Broadway intersection.
Recess policy instituted: primary students recess twice daily on north playground, middle, upper grade students once daily on south playground.
Eileen Cunningham is named Swift’s third principal, serves until 1953. Second kindergarten classroom opened to accommodate large number of enrolling 5-year-olds.
Parent-Teacher Association continues fund-raising affairs on behalf of school; long-time
efforts will raise thousands of dollars for various needs.
Jean Kenning is named Swift’s fourth principal, serves until 1972. Home economics program, begun in 1914, discontinued; space converted to classroom with movable desks to accommodate increased baby boomer enrollments.
Winter tradition continues; south playground flooded to create student/community ice rink.
Housing stock in Swift attendance area begins to change to meet shifting population needs; large existing buildings are carved into several dwellings; new construction boon of multi-unit apartment buildings follows.
Swift observes its golden anniversary.
A” and “B” grade level semesters and January mid-term commencements discontinued;
institute September-June school year for all students and annual commencements in June.
By end of decade, Swift attendance area begins to evolve into gateway neighborhood for refugees from troubled nations; Cubans are among first to arrive.
Monthly patriotic student assemblies replaced by those with creative arts, seasonal themes.
Suzuki-method violin classes begun for selected K-8 students, later also offered to 3 and 4-year-old students.
Seymour Miller is named Swift’s fifth principal, serves until 1992.
With over half the school’s population lunching in school auditorium, Swift switches to closed campus, conducts 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. school day; students begin to lunch in classrooms.
Swift switches from coal-burning furnace to gas-fired boiler; brick wall removed to facilitate project, then reinstalled after installation.
School student body now reflects influx of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees fleeing war-torn Southeast Asia.
With foresightedness, Swift installs computer-wired networks in most classrooms, one of first schools in city to accommodate cyberspace instruction.
CBOE mandates student immunizations at designated grade levels.
Head Start pre-kindergarten class begun, to be discontinued in 2003.
Uniform disciplinary code adopted.
Edgewater Community Council (ECC) launches drive to plan, design, construct playground for primary age youngsters on north side of building, raises $8,000 to purchase equipment.
Swift observes its diamond anniversary.
Mushrooming enrollments tax capacity of physical plant, force administration to conduct classes in field house, gymnasium, hallways and storage closets and on auditorium stage, balcony and one-third of ground floor. Physical education classes conducted in Broadway Armory.
Swift, per citywide mandate, seats its first elected Local School Council of six parents, two faculty, two community members plus school principal.
ECC forms Task Force on Overcrowded Schools, arranges for Swift 7th, 8th grade students to be taught at Nicholas Senn High School; Carita Chapman is named lead teacher of Senn Prepatory Academy, heads faculty of seven.
Expand unique after-school activities, programs for latch key students in field house.
Emil DeJulio is named Swift’s sixth principal, serves until 2002.
CBOE approves proposal, designates Swift a Specialty School for Reading and Language Arts; school busing of transient students continues. Faculty focuses on reading instruction, English as a second language and bilingual classes serving Swift’s diverse population.
CBOE threatens to end sports, extracurricular activities; Swift’s administration, faculty and LSC salvage gymnasium, swim programs.
In CBOE mandate, Swift adds fine arts (art and music) to curriculum, augments
instruction in math, science and reading; school is renamed George B. Swift Fine and
Performing Arts Magnet School.
Lincoln/Washington portraits in auditorium restored, original seats refinished.
LSC and ECC broker addition to main building,. Construction begins in fall on 44,000 sq. ft. structure, ground broken in playground area south of original building. Field house used for instruction and after-school activities demolished. Original building completely abated; asbestos, lead paint removed; all windows replaced.
Swift, reflecting diverse student body, institutes first International Week celebration with each grade level assigned a continent or section of the world for shared curricular study.
Addition with nine classrooms, computer lab, art room, cafeteria, state-of-art kitchen
completed in spring, accommodates 410 students; time capsule installed in east wall of building.
Pillars abutting new building entrance architecturally compatible with original
construction. Makeshift cafeteria in Room 106 closed, eating in classrooms, hallways ends.
Swift’s upper grade center at Senn graduates nearly 1,000 8th graders in 10-year period; most matriculate at Senn. Instruction of 7th, 8th graders resumed on main campus. Physical education teaching arrangement at Broadway Armory ends.
Strife in Balkan countries reflected in number of Bosnian refugees beginning to enroll.
Eight decades after opening, Swift evolves from neighborhood school in affluent community to learning center serving streams of refugees and immigrants. Swift acquires dichotomous distinctions: students speak most languages in CPS system; school has one of highest mobility rates in city.
Beverly Martin is named Swift’s seventh principal, serves until 2007.
CBOE mandates day-long kindergarten program. School day increased from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to allow more time on task.
Harlee Till is named Swift’s eighth and current principal.
Literacy mural created with $5,000 Target grant, installed in library. Student population sees influx of Burmese refugees.
Playground totally refurbished at cost of $75,000, includes new equipment and field turf.
New flooring installed in classrooms, corridors in entire original building, an $80,000 renovation project.
State-of-the-art technology acquisitions continue, include two computer labs, three laptop carts, nine smart boards, IPADs and document cameras.
Swimming pool totally renovated at cost of $2 million; Swift remains the only Chicago elementary school offering swimming and water safety instruction.
Swift school rating climbs to Level 1, top CPS academic tier.
Community Christian Church forms Friends of Swift, recruits parents, residents for after-school matters, begins ambitious fund-raising efforts to renovate school’s auditorium.
Swift ends academic year with student enrollment of 690, 46 teachers, nine
paraprofessionals and two administrators, with student and faculty attendance at 95.7% and 96.0%, respectively.
Class of 2013-14 includes 33.5% Hispanic students, 31.0% Black, 15.8% White, 14.8% Asian, 5.1% Other. School’s diverse population speaks 65 languages, includes immigrants and refugees from 50 countries.
Swift awards diplomas to 66 8th graders in 100th graduating class.
Swift celebrates 100thanniversary with culminating open house May 29. Honorary street signs (Honorable George B. Swift Way) installed at school’s Thorndale/Winthrop
Illinois State Senate, Chicago City Council issue proclamations recognizing Swift’s
Author: Researched and chronicled by Marilyn (Lynn) Pierce, Member, Swift Centennial Committee.
Sources:Chicago Board of Education Archives
Chicago History Museum
Edgewater Historical Society,
Chicago Tribune Archives
Swift Principal Harlee Till.
Former Swift Principal Emil DeJulio
Former Swift faculty member Rochelle (Shelley) Herbst
Former Senn Prepatory Academy lead teacher Carita Chapman
May 2014