The School District 122 community: a history

  • Oak Lawn School District 122 was organized in 1871. School board minutes from 1942 support this date as the minutes indicate the newly built Harnew School was dedicated to one of the found­ing families of the district.

    As early as 1903, a one-room school boasting an enrollment of 14, stood on the northwest corner of 95th Street and 64th (Ridgeland) Avenue.

    In 1922, a modern two-room school, complete with electricity, was constructed about a half-block west of the one-room frame building. The district's first superintendent, Wiley Simmons, and his wife, Pearl, came to the area in 1925. Pearl taught grades one through four and Wiley taught grades five through eight. Simmons Middle School was named after the superintendent.

    A meteoric population expansion began in 1949, resulting in the rapid addition of rooms to Sim­mons School and the construction of Columbus Manor, Dearborn Heights, and Lieb, and Harnew Elementary Schools.

    In 1972, a bond issue was passed to raise funds to accommodate deteriorating buildings and split class sessions caused by serious overcrowding. Ad­ditions were made to all five schools. Enrollment began to decline in 1973, from more than 3,300 to the present day enrollment of 1,900 students, which is more in line with what the buildings can accommodate.

    In 1979, the district established a preschool for three- and four-year-olds. It was one of the first in the state and began functioning 10 years before Illinois established a preschool program for chil­dren at risk of academic failure.  It is a program that continues until today.

    In 1999, major renovations including a two story addition were undertaken at Harnew School to provide a school that was safer and more secure for students as well as more conducive for instruction.  Upgraded electrical services allow for the technology that is now in our schools.

    Beginning in 2001, further renovations and replacements were planned and undertaken at all the remaining schools.  This resulted in the total replacement of Columbus Manor School and Dearborn Heights School with brand new, modern buiildings.  Dearborn Heights School has since been rededicated as Ernest F. Kolb School in honor of the longtime mayor of Oak Lawn.  George W. Lieb school received a two story addition and modernizations of electrical service.  Not forgotten was Simmons Middle School which received a 2 story addition and major renovation throughout.

    Currently, District 122 employs 295 people, in­cluding classroom teachers, teaching specialists, principals, other administrators, and support personnel.

    Special services are provided for students by two school psychologists, five social workers, speech therapists, five instructional technology teachers, teachers of instrumental and general music, and teachers for our transitional program of instruction and transitional bilingual education program (for foreign-speaking children). Special education and remedial reading also are provided for all chil­dren who are eligible.

    District 122 includes sections of Oak Lawn, Bridgeview and Chicago Ridge, although approxi­mately 80 percent of the district lies within Oak Lawn.

    The community has much to offer, including a well-equipped hospital, public library, recreational facilities, a prosperous business community includ­ing the multi-million dollar Chicago Ridge Shopping Mall, easy accessibility to forest preserves for recreation as well as organizations for young people, senior citizens and numerous civic organizations.