Applications being accepted for CPS ‘Cornelius’ pre-k school opening this August in Jefferson Park, offering free full-day program along with options for before- and after-care
by BRIAN NADIG
Applications are being taken for the full-day early education center for 4-year-olds that will open this August inside the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave. in Jefferson Park.
The Chicago Public School purchased the building for about $3.3 million.
Tuition is free for the program, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The school’s play-based curriculum is designed to allow children to learn through exploration and experimentation, and enrichment classes such as music and yoga will be offered.
“There’s also before and after care. … As a working parent that is critical and super helpful,” said Dana Galati, who is principal of the pre-k school. Before-care will start at 7 a.m. and after-care will run through 6 p.m.
The school is temporarily named “Cornelius,” but a formal name change will occur following a community input process, Galati said
Applicants who live within 1.5 miles of the site will be given priority points on their application.
To apply visit, www.cps.edu/chicagoearlylearning or call 312-229-1690 if assistance with the application process is needed. Applicants must be age 4 by Sept. 1.
Families are asked to rank their top five choices, with enrollment prioritized on need as identified by a family’s socioeconomic status. Regardless of where a family lives, it apply for CPS pre-k programs throughout the city, although bus service is usually not provided.
Due to the large number of new pre-k centers in the city, CPS officials have said one of the goals of the expansion is for every family to have a tuition-free, pre-k option near their home. New pre-k schools also are in the works for the Edgebrook and Edison Park business districts and at North Park Village, 5801 N. Pulaski Road, although those centers are not expected to open until 2023.
The initial application process for next school year has ended, but families can still apply for the 2022-23 school year, said Cornelius assistant principal Elaine McFarlane. The response time will not be long, and parents seeking Cornelius for their child should remember to rank the school as their top choice, she said.
Cornelius plans to have an an enrollment of up 120 students this fall, with a maximum of 240 the following year.
Having a school dedicated to pre-kindergarten allows the staff to focus its planning and professional development on the education and growth of a specific age group and creates “excitement that comes from solely having pre-school in the building,” Galati said.
The school will have a counselor who will work with parents and students in choosing an elementary school and assisting with the transition from pre-k to kindergarten, Galati said. The counselor will be in contact with the area’s grammar schools, she said.
The pre-k school also will have a new accessible playground and a sensory garden along with two new 20-space parking lots. The playground will be available to the community in the evening and on weekends.
When plans were announced about 5 1/2 years ago for the Cornelius pre-school, city officials indicated that it would would replace the existing pre-k programs at several area elementary schools, but those programs are continuing.
The former rectory and convent of the Saint Cornelius Parish are being demolished as part of the project, while the former parish school building is undergoing extensive renovations, including the restoration of decorative archways. The Archdiocese of Chicago is looking to sell the church, which will not be part of the pre-school.
For more information on Cornelius, call 312-620-9070 or visit the “Cornelius ELC” Facebook page.
“As we navigate this journey together, I promise to listen, be supportive, inclusive and continue to learn and grow in my own craft as an early childhood educator and leader,” Galati wrote in her principal’s message to the community.