After two rounds of bids, a readjustment of the budget and over two years of delays, the City of Chicago’s Public Buildings Commission has finally appointed contractors to oversee construction on the new Westinghouse High School: George Sollitt/Oakley Construction in a joint venture to rebuild the school.
The contractors were selected at the March 13 Public Buildings Commission meeting held at the PBC offices on the second floor of the Richard J. Daley Center.
Though the project will not be as expensive as it would have been had the commission not made adjustments to their blueprints (abandoning the original plan to include rooms with more expensive vaulted ceilings), the school will still cost more than $69 million, making it the most expensive high school in the city.
It will eclipse Little Village High School (which cost $53.8 million in 2004) Northside College Prep (costing $52.8 million in 1999) and Walter Payton Prep (which cost a comparatively meager $32.7 million in 2000).
“We were very happy with the plans and the fact that the school will finally begin construction,” said Mike Tomas, new community program director for the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. “We were especially pleased with the fact that Sollitt and Oakley agreed to hire 40 percent minority contractors from businesses on the West Side. Usually, 24 percent is the expected portion of minority contractors hired.”
“I am quite happy with the fact that construction of the new Westinghouse School will finally begin because there is so much history at that school for me personally,” said Cata Truss, community resident, who along with her husband, Dwayne and the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, have been meeting with the PBC for two years to keep the school from being forgotten amidst the many development ventures presumably on the horizon for the West Side.
“The school will have six computer labs, six science labs, a new auditorium, and a new media facility,” said Truss. “It will be a definite alternative for students who want to go to a good school but cannot get into Whitney Young or Walter Payton Prep because there is no room. Now they have more choices.”
However, since it is a “selective enrollment” school and students will be chosen based on academic performance, how many students on the West Side will benefit from the new school if many of the elementary schools in the area are underperforming?
“Well, that puts pressure on the schools to improve,” said Truss. “They have two years.” Construction is expected to begin in early May of this year and will be completed in May of 2009. This will allow the school to open in the fall of 2009.
The school will be approximately 240,000 square feet, serving approximately 1,200 students. The school will house two schools, one for college prep classes such as English, mathematics and history and another will be an Education to Careers (vocational) School, preparing students for specialized fields such as radiology and nursing.
Each school will house 600 students apiece. The school will be located at Franklin and Kedzie.
Representatives of both Solitt and Oakley construction companies and the Public Buildings Commission were unavailable for comment.