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School To Get $535,000 In Air Conditioners Just Before It Closes

By Sam Cholke | March 6, 2017 5:39am
 The former Wadsworth Elementary School building will be empty in the fall after the University of Chicago's charter school moves into its new home.
The former Wadsworth Elementary School building will be empty in the fall after the University of Chicago's charter school moves into its new home.
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UPDATE: A CPS official said the Woodlawn Charter School building was "inadvertently included on a list of schools to get air-conditioning and said it has canceled plans to install it.

WOODLAWN — Chicago Public Schools is planning to spend $535,000 to install air conditioners in a school that will be empty before the summer.

On Feb. 23, CPS got building permits to do $535,000 in work to install air conditioners at the University of Chicago’s Woodlawn Charter School, 6420 S. University Ave., which will empty out after school ends on June 16 as the students move to a new building.

There are no plans to reuse the building or to sell it.

CPS officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday on why the work was being done when there are no plans to use the building past the spring.

In 2014, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised every school in the city would get air conditioning, and in April he announced the last 61 schools would get air conditioning a year ahead of schedule.

The university's charter school at the time was on the CPS list of the final round of schools to get air conditioning.

Even with the U. of C.’s 592 students in the building, it has been half empty since 2013 when CPS combined the Wadsworth and Dumas elementary schools in the Dumas building at 6650 S. Ellis Ave.

When the U. of C. was looking to ramp up its facilities for its sixth- through 12th-grade classes, it turned down an offer to buy the former Wadsworth building, which needed at least $3.9 million in repairs, according to a a 2012 CPS report.

The university instead opted to build a new $27.5 million state-of-the art high school a block away on city land at 1101 E. 63rd St.

RELATED: Woodlawn Faced With Big Empty School After U. of C. Charter Moves

Shayne Evans, CEO of the university’s charter school system, said in January that the property should be turned over to developers because the building lacks much more than air conditioning.

“Wadsworth was built 100 years ago to serve elementary students and therefore lacks classroom spaces and resources necessary for high school students,” Evans said. “After over a year of exploring different ways of meeting the needs of current and prospective students, it was determined that a new facility was the best and most economically feasible option for both students and the Woodlawn community at large.”

CPS has not indicated that it plans to try to sell the property. A developer with some creativity would be required because the school is surrounded by houses on two sides and a new street might be needed to make it marketable.