New early education center planned at Saint Cornelius


Six or seven elementary schools will transfer their pre-kindergarten classes to the new early education center that the Chicago Public Schools plans to open as early as this fall in the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave.

Alderman John Arena (45th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for the center, for construction of an annex at Prussing School and for the installation of artificial playing surfaces at several schools at 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 overcrowded grammar schools in the area. The schools that are expected to transfer their pre-kindergarten classes there are Hitch, Prussing, Beaubien, Farnsworth and Gray, and Portage Park is considering the option.

The school system will lease Saint Cornelius, which the Archdiocese of Chicago closed last year, 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 Saint Cornelius Parish joined Our Lady of Victory, Saint Pascal and Saint Tarcissus parishes to form 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," Brugh said.

Arena also announced that $24 million has been earmarked for Prussing, including 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 will be installed on the campus, Arena said.

Hitch, Farnsworth and Schurz High School will receive artificial playing surfaces, including a regulation-size field for soccer at Schurz, Arena said.

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