Construction begins on annex at Prussing, new Dunning school
by BRIAN NADIG
Construction began recently on the Prussing School annex and the new Read Dunning School, which may be used as a freshman campus for Taft High School.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said in his weekly newsletter that construction of the annex is scheduled to be completed by November.
The annex will allow for the removal of the modular units at Prussing School, 4650 N. Menard Ave. The school’s main building is intended for 450 students, but the school’s enrollment last fall was 738.
The annex will include two general classrooms, art and music rooms, science and computer labs, a kitchen and dining area, an administrative office, restrooms and an elevator, according to the Public Building Commission. The annex will primarily be one-story tall, with a small portion being two stories.
The approximately $24 million project also will include structural and masonry repairs to the main building and a roof replacement.
In addition, an existing lunch area will be converted into two kindergarten classrooms, while a new parking lot and a playing field with an artificial surface are planned for the school grounds.
Meanwhile, excavation work recently began at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave., where a new $70 million high school is planned.
Chicago Public Schools is expected to announce this fall whether the new school will be a 4-year high school for the Dunning neighborhood or a freshman campus for Taft.
Construction is expected to be finished by the fall of 2019, with a school capacity of 1,200 students.
Taft’s Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center also may be housed at the Dunning campus.
Taft has 3,372 students and is operating at 140 percent of its ideal capacity of 2,400 students. The school system sets an ideal capacity for each school, taking into account a number of enrollment and classroom space factors.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that one of the concerns of a "start-up" high school is that it would lack the wide range of academic and extracurricular programs already offered at Taft.
Critics of the freshman campus proposal have argued that it would hurt the underutilized Steinmetz College Prep High School, which is operating at 67 percent of its ideal capacity.
Under the proposal, some Dunning area students would be guaranteed enrollment at Taft even though their current home high school is Steinmetz. Sposato has said that Dunning families should have access to the planned three-story school whether it is an extension of Taft or a "stand-alone school."
Some of the industrial owners in the Read-Dunning development site where the school will be located have expressed traffic flow and parking concerns about the project. Project planners will look at possible adjustments to how motorists will access the school, but budget constraints could limit those options, Sposato said.
"The one thing it does lack is (sufficient) parking," Sposato said. The planned 69 parking spaces for the school may only accommodate the staff, leaving no spaces for visitors, he said.
A park with a multi-purpose athletic field is planned for a parcel located to the north of the school and will be operated by the Chicago Park District. The park will have about 90 parking spaces, and hopefully some of its parking could be used for the school as needed, Sposato said.
Also on the Far Northwest Side, an annex is planned for Ebinger School, 7350 W. Pratt Ave.
Ebinger, whose enrollment is 832 students, is operating at 139 percent of its ideal capacity when its modular classroom units are taken into account. The school’s main building is intended for 420 students.
The two-story annex will include seven standard classrooms, three special needs classrooms, and science, computer and art rooms. Construction is scheduled to be finished in the fall of this year.
In other news, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a year ago that the school system would be converting the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave., into a pre-kindergarten center.
Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the alderman’s office is having discussions with the school system about the project but that details have not been finalized.
A spokeswoman for Archdiocese of Chicago said in mid-January that a lease for with the school system for the Saint Cornelius building has not been signed.
The mayor’s press office and the CPS’ communications office have not responded to numerous inquiries about the pre-kindergarten project.