Over the last three months, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance Education Committee has been meeting with other neighboring community organizations to discuss the much delayed construction and opening of the new Westinghouse High School.

The Public Buildings Commission, the agency responsible for city construction projects, announced their intention to invest $47 million into the construction of the new Westinghouse High School, at the same time as North Grand and Little Village High Schools were planned for construction.

“The longer the project is delayed, the longer West Side students will be denied the quality education promised by the Chicago Public Schools,” said Austin resident and activist Dwayne Truss. “It is important that we as a community address this issue, otherwise the delays will continue and that will only be to our detriment.”

Both North Grand and Little Village were completed in 2003 and 2004, but delays of Westinghouse have continued in part because of financing and disagreements involving bids from contractors.

After months of putting off construction, the PBC hired a construction firme, to handle phase one of the Westinghouse project. The first phase, which completed in February, involved laying the foundation, installing underground piping, wiring and plumbing. OCA, the firm hired to do the construction, received $5 million to complete this first phase.

“After the ground was prepared the PBC finally began taking bids from contractors on June 23rd, but they put it off until July 5,” said Mike Tomas, spokesman for the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. “They received bids from Walsh Construction and Paschen Construction, however, they were requesting contracts in the amounts of around $80 million, far exceeding the PBC’s $47 million budget. Consequently, they had to reschedule the bidding again.”

PBC’s officials said the new school would be open for bidding in January 2007 at the earliest. The project has a two-year construction schedule, with an expected projected completion date by fall 2008.

Recently, the Garfield Alliance hosted a community meeting at the Old Saint Paul MB Church at 531 N. Kedzie. Attendees including members of the West side Health Authority, Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), each attending primarily to get input from the community.

Visibly absent from the proceedings, though, were representatives of the PBC and Chicago Public Schools, who likely would have faced a litany of questions from upset community residents. Members of the Garfield Alliance are hoping to meet with PBC officials soon to discuss the project.

“We want to ask them if the money is still available for the project and if so, would they consider alternative bid strategies such as the construction management model used for the Kennedy-King project to expedite the construction schedule,” said Truss, adding that they alliance also wants to discuss strategies for maximizing opportunities for West Side contractors.”

The next two phases for the project are building the school and demolishing the old Westinghouse campus and turning it into a location for track and field sports.

The building will house two schools, one for college prep classes such as english, mathematics and history, and a vocational education school preparing students for specialized fields such as radiology and nursing.