Millions doled out to Austin schools

$12M from CPS for building improvements

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By ELLYN FORTINO

Austin-area schools are slated to receive a little more than $12 million as part of Chicago Public Schools' $110 million five-year capital improvement plan.

Announced earlier this month, the money will address immediate health and safety concerns for its public schools. There are currently more than 200 projects planned or underway as part of the 2013 fiscal year capital proposal, in addition to projects in the pipeline from last year, according to a CPS press release.

At least one Austin school is getting more than just health and safety renovations.

Spencer Academy, 214 N. Lavergne, received $32,190 to remove three classroom walls to make one large room for its Teach To One technology program. Construction will start in June and is slated to wrap up in September.

Separately, Spencer will receive up to $475,000 for other renovations to accommodate their tech program. The project will kick off in July and is expected to finish in December 2013.

Leslie Lewis Elementary will receive the most money out of the Austin schools to repair its deteriorating roof. Construction has started at Lewis, at 1431 N. Leamington, to replace the school's structural system. The cost to replace the building's structure is about $8.4 million and will be completed in November 2012.

A large chuck of funds is also slated for Michele Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison.

CPS is in the planning stages of investing $2.1 million for upgrades to Clark's three information technology labs, two standard computer labs, auditorium improvements, and upgrades to the girls' and boys' locker rooms.

Drinking fountains and bathrooms will also be renovated. The project is part of specialized Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum the school will offer to incoming freshmen beginning this fall. Lake View High School on the North Side is receiving a similar investment.

With a total of about $187,500, Brunson Math and Science Specialty Elementary, 932 N. Central, will build a new play lot starting in June concluding Aug. 12. Construction is underway at Hay Elementary Community Academy, 1018 N. Laramie, to bring its athletic field up to state regulations. The project costs roughly $116,000, with a completion date of May 31.

Ronald E. McNair Elementary, 4820 W. Walton, received $25,000 for capital improvements from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, as did Michele Clark. The state department awarded CPS with a total of $15 million in 2010 for school capital improvement projects, which was dispersed among various schools.

Up to $13,000 is going to Henry H. Nash Elementary, 4837 W. Erie, to upgrade the school's main building and annex. The renovation is to accommodate the arrival of KIPP/ACT Charter School, which the school board approved earlier this year to share space with Nash. Some improvements include new windows and interior renovations such as flooring, painting and elevator upgrades. The school will also see a new play lot. Construction is anticipated to start in June and will be completed in November.

About $8,000 will go to Frederick Douglass Academy High School, 543 N. Waller, but not until the 2016 budget year, as the project's in the planning stages for a mechanical system and boiler room renovation. July 2015 is the target start date; the project is slated to wrap summer 2017.

Catherine Jones, community representative on Douglass' Local School Council, said she wonders why Douglass is slated to receive such a small amount of money and at a later date compared to the other Austin-area schools.

"That's not much," Jones said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done."

She said the LSC and administration at Douglass have not been vocal enough with CPS about more pressing issues at the school. According to Jones, the classrooms need to be painted and students need more lockers. Also, the school's auditorium needs a "whole new makeover," she said, adding that it's outdated and has bleachers instead of chairs.

Although Jones was unaware of issues with Douglass's boiler room, she wonders why CPS couldn't fix it sooner, asking "Why not now?" She also insists Emmet School isn't getting the "right" improvements either. The school, Jones said, doesn't have a lunch room, so students have to eat in the gym, which she considers "unsanitary" though it's cleaned up before and after lunch. And according to Jones, the field house, which is peeling paint and is a haven for rodents, should be torn out or rebuilt.

Other schools expecting funds include:

  • $228,095 for Austin Business and Entrepreneurship School, 231 N. Pine, for a swimming pool renovation. Construction from June through December.
  • Roughly $310,500 for Robert Emmet Elementary, 5500 W. Madison, to repair its damaged chimney stack. Construction from June through October. Separately, Emmet received about $14, 600 to address masonry issues with the exterior of the building. Repairs done from June through November.
  • $149,176 for Horatio May Elementary Community Academy, 512 S. Lavergne, to upgrade its athletic fields. The field repairs will be completed this month.
  • $25,000 to George Rogers Clark Elementary, 1045 S. Monitor, for a capital improvement grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

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