CHICAGO | The two public schools for the East Side neighborhood are decades old and overcrowded but a new school proposed near the state border is expected to open for the 2016-17 school year if all goes according to plan.
Alderman John Pope, D-10th Ward, had officials from the city’s Public Building Commission visit the neighborhood recently to give the first of what will be several updates on progress toward building what is for now called the Southeast Area Elementary School.
Aides to Pope said the design phase for the new school to be built at 104th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard, just two blocks from State Line Road, will begin in May, with bids for various construction contracts to be sought early in 2015.
If those deadlines are met, that could result in a construction mobilization start in March 2015, with completion of a new school facility by July 2016, which would allow for the first classes to begin for the 2016-17 school year.
Erin Lavin Cabonargi, the commission’s executive director, told a gathering of parents on Tuesday at St. Simeon Serbian Church, 3737 E. 114th St., the new school would have about 110,000 square feet of space split among three floors.
There would be 44 standard classrooms, two computer labs, three classrooms each for science and art, along with two music rooms, a library and gymnasium, an administrative suite and a social service suite.
The entire facility would be fully accessible to disabled people, and would have capacity for up to 1,200 students.
And at a time when Chicago Public Schools officials are making plans to install air conditioning systems in existing schools, Cabonargi said the new school will be built with central air conditioning.
Plans to build a school to supplement Matthew Gallistel Language Academy, 10347 Ewing Ave., and Jane Addams Elementary School, 10810 Avenue H, have been discussed for years. But talk took a step toward reality in September when Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared at Gallistel to announce land had been acquired for the new school.
The site was once the location of a gas station and a car wash. At least part of the plot of land was purchased by the Chicago Public Schools from former Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak. Because of the land’s past uses, some area residents have expressed concerns the ground might be tainted from gasoline and other chemicals once used on the premises.
Preliminary environmental testing by the state found eight underground storage tanks at the site, with one leaking. There also were traces of benzene found in the soil. Aides to Pope said remediation efforts to ensure the ground is not a health threat to future students have been completed.
The alderman’s aides say the school’s eventual construction took a step forward last year when Emanuel’s office was able to secure $35 million in state funding for construction.
Although the alderman said the new school will not be the only recipient of funds. Another $2.3 million will be used to make repairs to Gallistel, including replacement of tiles on the building’s roof. The current building dates to 1876, according to the Southeast Chicago Historical Society.
While $1.1 million will be spent for upgrades on Addams school, which was built in 1948.
Cabonargi said city officials want to ensure that Chicago benefits from the construction project.
At least half of the people hired to build the new school will have to be city residents, while there will be incentives to encourage the hiring of apprentices, minority and female workers.
There also are provisions to encourage the hiring of people who actually live in the East Side and other 10th Ward neighborhoods, and to award contracts to local businesses whenever possible.