GLADSTONE PARK — Hitch Elementary School — the most crowded public elementary school in the city — will get an eight-classroom modular building to relieve severe overcrowding, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Friday.
The Chicago Public School's 2015 capital plan includes $3.7 million for a modular building for the top-rated Gladstone Park school, which has 586 students attending class in a building meant for 420, according to CPS data.
Ald. John Arena (45th) said the new building — which district officials said would "fully address" overcrowding at the school for the next three to five years — would be dedicated to former Hitch Principal Deborah Reese, who died two months ago.
Reese worked tirelessly to draw attention to overcrowding at the school, Arena said.
John Garrido, a member of Hitch's Local School Council, said he was overwhelmed by the news that district officials had decided to give Hitch the mobile classroom school officials had been demanding for five years.
"It is a testament to Debby Reese's hard work," said Garrido, who is running against Arena in next year's aldermanic elections. "It has been a long, hard road."
Hitch has an utilization rate of 140 percent, the highest of any public elementary school in Chicago, according to CPS data.
Hitch officials discussed asking CPS to build an annex, but decided they did not want to give up the open space around the school as well as a newly refurbished track, Arena said.
Construction on Hitch's modular building will start in July, and be completed by September 2015, according to the capital plan.
Once the modular has been completed, Hitch students will no longer have to study in what was once a men's bathroom or the hallways. In addition, the defunct projector’s booth in the school’s auditorium will no longer have to serve as a room for the school’s speech therapist to work with students.
In addition, Prussing Elementary School will get a third modular building to help relieve overcrowding at the Jefferson Park school.
The $2.1 million mobile building will have six classrooms, and is also scheduled to open in September 2015.
"I am overjoyed," said Principal Lloyd Ehrenberg. "I am ecstatic. This made my day."
Prussing has a utilization rate of 127 percent, making it overcrowded despite the school's existing six mobile classrooms, according to CPS data.
At Prussing, 4650 N. Menard Ave., 687 students attend class in space meant for 540 students.
In order to keep the size of classes between 28 and 32 students, every inch of available space is being used, including what was a former girls locker room, hallways and the auditorium stage, Ehrenberg said.
The additional modular building may allow art, music and French classes to have their own space, rather than moving from classroom to classroom, Ehrenberg said.
The district's capital plan also includes $8.8 million for Ebinger Elementary School from the Federal Aviation Administration for new doors, windows and air conditioning to reduce the impact of jet noise from planes flying in and out of O'Hare Airport.
Ebinger will also get $2.8 million to build an art lab and to make the school accessible for disabled students, teachers and visitors as part of the Edison Park school's new International Baccalaureate curriculum.
The school will also get $37,000 to fix plaster crumbling in its gym.
Other Far Northwest Side Schools included in the 2015 CPS capital plan are:
• Onahan Elementary School: $280,000 for new air conditioning and $250,000 to upgrade the school's science lab.
• Bridge Elementary School: $570,000 for new air conditioning
• Smyser Elementary School: $390,000 for new air conditioning and $287,000 for a new playground.
• Farnsworth Elementary School: $150,000 for new security cameras.
• Garvy Elementary School: $150,000 for new security cameras.
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