WEST LAWN — Two severely overcrowded Southwest Side elementary schools forced to turn cafeterias into classrooms will be getting some relief, the mayor announced Saturday, but they'll have to wait until 2016.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new Southwest Elementary School will alleviate crowding at Peck and Pasteur elementary schools in West Lawn. The $35 million school, which will house 1,200 students, will be built on the current site of Hubbard High School's athletic fields at 4150 W. 61st St., the city said.
"We’re going to finally make the investments that we need to make in our neighborhood schools and give our children a 21st century education in a 21st century school," said Emanuel.
“We have one goal in the city of Chicago: Every child should be 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound, and this type of new facility and these type of investments help us take another step forward," said Emanuel.
Peck Elementary school is built to hold 700 students, but has more than 1,500 students, putting it at 201 percent capacity, the city said.. Pasteur Elementary was built to hold 600 students, but has almost 1,600 students, or 187 percent capacity.
"This building without a doubt has been long overdue. It’s impossible for the teachers, the parents, the principals to give the kids the instruction and education they need when you have twice as many students than the building can actually handle," said Emanuel.
Pasteur's principal, Gerardo Trujillo, said he's been working with Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) and his network chief to alleviate overcrowding since the city announced it would close 50 schools deemed underutilized.
"[We] thought that it would be a good idea to get some buses and take some of our parents and say, 'Well, they’re shutting down these schools, yet our schools have the opposite issue, where we're bursting at the seams.' We felt that ‘Hey, there's also the other end spectrum issues going on in the Southwest Side,'" Trujillo said.
Trujillo said one of the biggest problems of overcrowding his school faces is at lunchtime.
"Obviously, having over 35 children in a classroom is not really conducive for instruction it becomes more babysitting," Trujillo said. "We don’t have a cafeteria. The children are eating in the classroom because we had to use what used to be the cafeteria and chopped it up into different classrooms.
"It’s an old facility," he said of the 1920s building. "There's a need for 21st century technology."
Trujillo said the announcement brings hope to the community even though Southwest Elementary will not be complete until 2016.
"It provides some hope for the families. It gives the families hope that their children can get better attention from their teachers," said Trujillo.