CHICAGO — Officials have set aside $75 million to build a new "middle grades school" to help relieve chronic overcrowding on the city's Northwest Side, according to a breakdown of projected capital improvements released Friday.
On top of the new school, and a million dollars allocated for a new turf field at Sauganash Elementary School, Chicago Public Schools officials set aside money for five other unspecified projects on the Northwest Side:
• $43.83 million for the construction of two school annexes
• $4.3 million for a "major renovation" of a "new Northwest pre-K center"
• $4.98 million for the construction of two new turf fields
Dollar amounts have been allocated for each project, but district leaders are still working out which schools get relief "as we receive feedback from community groups," according to a statement from Chicago Public Schools spokesman Michael Passman.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano said he has his "fingers crossed" that the annexes are meant for Ebinger Elementary School in Edison Park and Dirksen Elementary School in the O'Hare area, both overcrowded schools that have long appealed for extra space.
"I think it's a no-brainer when you look at the [capacity] percentages of these schools — they need annexes, and they deserve them," Napolitano said. "I think [CPS officials] are just being tight-lipped about it right now...but until there's pen on paper, it's not time time celebrate yet."
One of the field improvement projects may be slated for Taft High School, whose principal has repeatedly goaded Downtown officials for a turf football field. The school's parents and teachers were thrilled to see a $3.5 million field renovation proposal land on a "secret list" of planned Chicago Public Schools capital improvements, which was unearthed by WBEZ in August.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said he was "99 percent" confident that the proposed construction of the middle school is to address his call for a new high school he's attempted to open in the heart of Dunning.
Last year, the City Council extended the Dunning Tax Increment Financing District, which could help pay for a new school near Oak Park Avenue and Irving Park Road to relieve overcrowding at Taft.
But that proposal — which has been floating around for years without concrete plans — could be stymied by concerns that construction could disturb a long-forgotten cemetery that holds the remains of Chicago's poorest residents who died between 1890 and 1912.
Sposato said he was "feeling good" about the school, but residents shouldn't get their hopes up until an official plan is released.
"I think it's getting really close, but it means nothing to me until we get an actual plan on paper," the alderman said. "I've learned enough to know that anything can still happen to get it disrupted."
The projected capital improvements will only proceed if CPS secures bond proceeds, which is not guaranteed.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.