Andrew Jackson School opened on February 5, 1894. The building is located on Sholto Street, between Good and Better Streets. The street names were changed and the actual address is now 820 S. Carpenter (between Arthington and Cabrini).
It consisted of eighteen classrooms, two recitation rooms, and a principal's office. The building, complete with furniture, cost $67,571.77. It has a seating capacity for 864 pupils. Contracts were awarded for the erection of the building June 7, 1893.
The students were sons and daughters of Italian immigrants. The teachers were the daughters of Irish and German immigrants. Many of the children were unable to speak English and the teachers could not speak Italian. Nevertheless, the children felt warmly welcomed into the new school. The teachers read stories to their classes of 50 students and taught them songs to sing. Soon, the children were learning to speak English and singing their new songs.
The railroad was of great significance to this community in 1894. The nearby Polk Street Station was Chicago's port of entry for the European immigrants. After disembarking from the train, the families would carry their suitcases or wicker baskets and head west towards Halsted Street in search of a home and job. The immigrant's new homes were likely to be wooden tenements in what was then the most crowded and congested section of Chicago.
Many men would work for the railroad at $1.50 a day. Men and women worked in the garment factories that lined Van Buren Street. The children worked too. Many of them worked 14 hours a day stitching clothes or making buttonholes in the clothing factories. They earned from $.40 a day to $4.00 a week.
The harsh and dangerous working conditions for children caused concerned citizens to push for child labor laws and sufficient school buildings. Nowhere in Chicago was there more concern and love for children than at Hull House on Halsted Street. Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr had opened Hull House to and for their neighbors in 1889. Hull House was an oasis where children, as well as working men and women, could go for English, art, drama, and music classes. It was also a place to socialize and make new friends.
In addition to organizing social activities, the Hull House workers petitioned the City for more schools to be built in this area. They also campaigned and eventually were successful in getting the Illinois State legislature to pass child labor laws. The laws required children under the age of 14 to attend school and not be allowed to work in factories.
To help care for the little children of working mothers, Hull House opened a day care nursery and one of the first kindergartens in the City. On February 10, 1894, a week after it opened, the Andrew Jackson School began one of the first public school kindergartens in Chicago. The Board of Education observed the success of these classes and vowed to "plant these gardens wherever they were needed."
By 1909, an addition to the school was planned. That summer, the carpenters, masons, and plumbers hastened to finish their work by September 8th. The new section would contain 20 additional rooms, a principal’s office, a gymnasium, and an auditorium. The Board of Education voted unanimously to buy a piano for the school. The cost of the new building was $177,793.00.
Students of Italian descent were still in the majority, but the records show there were also Russian, Irish, Greek, German, and French children in attendance.
With the passing of decades, a new wave of immigration began. This time the immigrants were from Mexico. Once again, children faced the difficulties of learning a new language and customs. Eventually, the transition was made easier by the help of bilingual classes and special reading programs. Since 1981, Jackson School has offered a world language program to children throughout Chicago. Today, students are able to learn one of the following world languages: Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. The world language curriculum emphasizes communication, as well as geography, history, and the culture of the respective nations.
In September, 1989, Jackson Academy moved into a new school building at 1340 W. Harrison St., at the corner of Harrison and Loomis Sts. In addition to the regular and world language classrooms, the new building would have a science lab, computer lab, library-media center, and a large outside area for play and gardening activities.
Today, 565 students representing diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds attend Andrew Jackson. Teachers and staff guide and assist students as they prepare for opportunities and careers of the twenty-first century.