Chicago Hope Academy on the West Side received a belated Christmas gift, one that might help the school remain a Christian institution.
Hope, a private high school at 2189 W. Bowler on the Near West Side, recently received a donation from a New York-based financier: a 178-year-old, 14-room mansion located in Rhode Island.
The West Side School, however, has no plans to leave its current location, Robert Muzikowski, the school’s founder and president, insists.
“I’m very thankful to my friend for this generous gift,” he said.
Muzikowski’s friend of more than 25 years, New York investment banker Russell Jeffrey donated the Wakefield, Rhode Island property. Built in 1831, it was an inn for 30 years before closing in 2006. Jeffery purchased the building in ’06 for $1.5 million. Muzikowski a longtime Austin resident, said he is looking to sell the property, open it as a retreat center or launch a senior home.
The inn covers about 174,000 sq. ft. on a hill overlooking a vast green field. Muzikowski plans to meet with developers in New York this week to discuss each option. He was non-committal, however, toward any one option, although insisting that if he chooses one of the latter two, he will not leave the academy but will instead appoint a manager to oversee the new Rhode Island facility.
The school, which opened in 2005 as a private Christian school, is funded mainly through private contributions and also receives tuition. But the tough economy has stifled contributions to the school, which has an annual operating budget of about $2.5 million. Administrators had been in talks with the Chicago Public Schools about becoming a contract school under the city’s Renaissance 2010 school improvement plan, but that would result in Hope Academy converting to a secular school.
But with the recent donation of the property, Muzikowski said joining CPS will remain a backup plan, adding that the school wouldn’t be talking to CPS if money wasn’t a factor. As for the Rhode Island inn, Muzikowski had been in talks with his friend about the property for some time, he said.
Chicago Hope Academy launched in the summer of 2004 when a group of Christian businessmen purchased the St. Callistus school and parish from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Muzikowski and his follow businessmen agreed that there was a need for a private school for low-income students. Once St. Callistus was renovated, through volunteer support and private donors, the school opened a year later.
“I simply viewed it as fairness,” said Muzikowski, insisting that not having wealthy parents shouldn’t deter students from attending a private, college-preparatory institution. “The school carries a $2 million operating cost annually, so our donor support is very important to us.”
The school has 180 students enrolled but can seat 240. Muzikowski noted the school’s success in sending every one of its students to college. Hope’s tuition is $12,000 and each student has the option of accepting a roughly $5,000 scholarship as well as pursuing additional financial aid. The remaining tuition is covered by donations.