New CPS pre-k center in Jefferson Park to operate temporarily at former Our Lady of Victory School due to construction delays at former Saint Cornelius site
by BRIAN NADIG
The new Chicago Public Schools pre-kindergarten center in Jefferson Park will be opening on a temporary basis at the former Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., due to delays in renovating its permanent home inside the former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) reported that CPS told him the center, which is intended for 4-year-olds, could remain at the OLV location until February 2023. The OLV School closed in 2016 at the same time Saint Cornelius also was shut down.
The first scheduled day of pre-kindergarten classes at the OLV site is Monday, Aug. 22.
Pending permits for the former Cornelius site show that a revised elevator shaft location is needed “based on discovered conditions” and that a revised permit is being sought for some of the additional work required for the project.
The center had a working name of “Cornelius,” but following a recent community vote, the school’s official name is the Patty Smith Hill Early Learning Education Center. Hill, who died at the age of 78 in 1946, was considered a pioneer in early education, stressing the importance of creativity and natural instincts in kindergarteners.
In 2021 CPS purchased the former Saint Cornelius school, convent and rectory for $3.325 million. The former Saint Cornelius Church reportedly remains for sale.
The pre-k Cornelius site will include a new accessible playground and a sensory garden and two new 20-space parking lots. In recent months construction crews have been working on the site.
Plans had called for the pre-kindergarten center to open this month on the Cornelius site but to operate with no more than 120 students, which would be half of the school’s projected capacity. Under a new policy, applicants to stand-alone pre-k centers are given priority points on their enrollment application if they live within 1.5 miles of the site.
It’s not clear how many students will attend classes at the former OLV School, which reportedly is for sale.
The former OLV Church also is expected to be put up for sale, but some former OLV parishioners are appealing the Archdiocese of Chicago’s decision to close the church and have called for it to be designated a city landmark due to its historical significance and Spanish-style design, which includes the main sanctuary on the upper level and a lower-level chapel.
The OLV School was built in 1911, with several additions, including one in 1949, said Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth. The 1911 portion of the school building still remains.
(photo by Frank Suerth)