Half-dozen schools expected to send pre-K classes to planned center at St Cornelius


About a half-dozen area elementary schools will be transferring their pre-kindergarten classes to the new early education center which the Chicago Public Schools hopes to open as early as this fall inside the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave.

Alderman John Arena (45th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for the center, a construction of an annex at Prussing School and the installation of artificial playing surfaces at several schools during a Feb. 1 press conference at Prussing.

Arena said that the center at Saint Cornelius will feature 14 classrooms and that it is intended to free up space for higher grades at many of the overcrowded grammar schools in the area. The schools expected to transfer their pre-kindergarten classes there will be Hitch, Prussing, Beaubien, Farnsworth and Gray, and Portage Park is considering the option.

The school system will be leasing Saint Cornelius, and the project is estimated to cost $6.9 million. “The archdiocese is more than happy to see it activated again,” Arena said.

Saint Cornelius School closed in June of 2016, when it joined the parishes of Our Lady of Victory, Saint Pascal and Saint Tarcissus in forming the Pope Francis Global Academy.

Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the goal is to have the early education center open this fall but that delays are possible. “The alderman has been saying for years we have to have a comprehensive a plan to address the overcrowding at area schools, and this gets us partially there,” he said.

Arena also announced that $24 million has been earmarked for Prussing, including the construction of an annex with six classrooms and a lunchroom. The annex would replace some of the school’s mobile classroom units.

Extensive renovations also are planned for the school’s main building, and an artificial playing surface also will be installed on the campus, Arena said.

Hitch, Farnsworth and Schurz High School also will be receiving artificial playing surfaces, including a regulation-size field for soccer at Schurz, Arena said. “Great high schools can host home games where school pride is fostered and parents can connect,” he said.

A previous plan had called for a portion of Waveland Avenue to be closed to allow for the new field at Schurz, but the street will remain open, Brugh said.

Please note: the picture shows a presentation of the Prussing Color Guard prior to the news conference.