Schools to get improvements
by BRIAN NADIG
Outdoor sports facilities for Taft and Schurz high schools and a new Belmont-Cragin elementary school are among the capital projects that Chicago Public Schools has planned for the area.
"It will be nice to have ‘Friday Night Lights’ on the Northwest Side," Taft principal Mark Grishaber said of the planned $3.5 million complex. The project is included in the 2019 capital budget, which CPS recently released.
The Taft facility will include four tennis courts and an artificial athletic field with spectator stands for 1,200, lights, a public address system, a press box and a water fountain.
The field will accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse, and its location along the far east side of the campus will allow the school to preserve its existing baseball and softball fields, Grishaber said.
The new field will help prevent student injuries, as ankle twists are common due to the many ruts on the existing field. "I don’t know how people run on it," he said.
The tennis courts will be constructed near the main entrance of the school, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
At Schurz, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., a new multi-purpose, artificial athletic field will be installed on the west end of the campus. The school system is contributing $950,000 toward the project, which will include funds from the Portage Park Tax Increment Financing District.
To accommodate the new field, Waveland Avenue between Milwaukee Avenue and Lowell Avenue will be converted from a two-way street running northeasterly. Initial plans had called for Waveland to be closed to all traffic.
Lane Tech High School, 2501 W. Addison St., also is getting a new turf field, and $950,000 is being allocated for the project.
The school system also is allocating $44 million for a new elementary school to help alleviate overcrowding on the Northwest Side. The location has not been announced, but the budget states that the school will be located in the Belmont-
The budget also includes $20 million for education programs at the Rickover Naval Academy, which operates inside Senn High School, 5900 N. Greenwood Ave. The school system is seeking to buy the former Luther High School North, 5700 W. Berteau Ave., and relocate Rickover there due to Senn’s overcrowding, said Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th).
At Farnsworth School, 5414 N. Linder Ave., the installation of a "Space To Grow" schoolyard is planned. The green space is intended in part to help reduce neighborhood flooding, and most of its cost, estimated at $1.55 million, will come from outside sources.
Farnsworth principal Barbara Oken said that the project would feature a permeable surface and include a turf field, a playground, outdoor classrooms and an edible garden. She said that construction is scheduled to start this summer.
Also in the budget are a $375,000 playlot and $4.6 million in roof improvements for Reinberg School, 3425 N. Major Ave., a $500,000 playlot for Schubert School, 2727 N. Long Ave., and $15.4 million in roof improvements for Lovett School, 6333 W. Bloomingdale Ave.
The budget also allocates $1 million for the demolition of modular units at Steinmetz Prep High School, 3030 N. Mobile Ave. When the modular units were first installed, they were used for students who were not expected to graduate due to a low number of course credits, and their access to the main building was limited.
Also, $300,000 is being allocated for a turf field at Bateman School, 4220 N. Richmond St., and $18 million has been budgeted for roof improvements at Locke School, 2828 N. Oak Park Ave.
Meanwhile, the budget also includes $14.5 million for new pre-kindergarten centers and full-day, pre-kindergarten expansion, but it appears that one of those new pre-kindergarten centers will not be at the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave.
In early 2017 plans for a center at Saint Cornelius were announced, but the school system has not signed a lease with the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. The center was intended to help provide overcrowding relief to elementary schools in the area.