Funds set for St. Cornelius renovation
by BRIAN NADIG
The $5 million renovation of the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave., will "hopefully" begin in the summer as part of a plan to convert it to an early education center, according to Chicago Public Schools chief operating officer Arnie Rivera.
"This has been a project long in the making," Rivera said at the March 27 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. "We do have the $5 million committed for the renovation."
Rivera’s comments were in response to testimony by Alderman John Arena (45th), who expressed concern about delays in the project. Arena said that he has not seen funding for the project listed in any CPS "capital announcement" for 2019.
"The fall of 2019 was when the community was promised the opening of the Saint Cornelius early education center," Arena told the school board. "Please don’t let them down."
Arena said that the project was delayed from 2018 to 2019 at the request of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was trying to address capital issues at schools that were in "much worse shape" than those on the Northwest Side. Arena said that he agreed to a one-year delay.
Rivera told Arena that his office would get him documented confirmation that the funds have been allocated for the project.
Rivera added that there are ongoing negotiations with the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding the master lease that CPS has for archdiocesan facilities, but that those items are "unrelated to the rider associated to Saint Cornelius" and are expected to be resolved. "That is part of the hang-up," he said.
The early education center is designed to relieve overcrowding on the Northwest Side by giving schools the option of "shifting" their pre-kindergarten programs to the Saint Cornelius site, Arena said.
The Saint Cornelius project was part of a $36 million plan for 45th Ward schools, which included an addition to Prussing School.
Also at the board meeting, Arena expressed concerns about delays in the installation of a multi-purpose sports field at Schurz High School.
Rivera said that "we will get the project done this spring" and that similar projects at other schools, including Taft High School, have faced delays due to weather last fall.
Editor’s note: In response to questions about the Saint Cornelius project, CPS provided a link to an online video of the testimony at the March 27 meeting. A Nadig Newspapers reporter did not attend the meeting but watched the video.