Cost to CPS for controversial Near South Side high school jumps by $30 million

CPS now says the new school will cost about $150 million to build, up from $120 million. The project faces a City Council vote Wednesday.

SHARE Cost to CPS for controversial Near South Side high school jumps by $30 million
On Wednesday, the council will vote on using $8 million from a special taxing district to buy land at 24th and State streets from the Chicago Housing Authority for the new school. 

On Wednesday, the council will vote on using $8 million from a special taxing district to buy land at 24th and State streets from the Chicago Housing Authority for the new school.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

The cost of building a controversial new high school on Chicago’s Near South Side is now estimated at $150 million — $30 million more than predicted this summer.

School district officials revealed the new cost while testifying in front of the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday. On Wednesday, the council will vote on using $8 million from a special taxing district to buy land at 24th and State streets from the Chicago Housing Authority for the new school.

Aldermen asked many of the same questions about the project that were raised when the Chicago Board of Education narrowly approved it in September.

Among the many concerns was whether a school district with declining enrollment and many underutilized high schools — some near the proposed site of the new one — should be investing in the construction of a new school.

In addition, the proposed site for the new high school is on land owned by the Chicago Housing Authority that was slated for subsidized housing. At the committee hearing, some aldermen pressed housing officials about whether the residents support having the school built.

CHA officials struggled to provide a concrete answer. The CHA expects to build the planned subsidized housing at a nearby location on land paid for by the school district.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) pressed school district officials about how they plan to pay for the construction. He pointed out the school district is relying on $50 million in state money, but state Rep. Theresa Mah is against the proposed location and has vowed to block the funding.

CPS officials promised to keep fighting for that funding.

Ald. Pat Dowell, whose 3rd Ward includes the new high school, assured her colleagues she will work to make it happen. She said Chinatown and the South Loop need a new high school and, if all goes as planned, it will be one of the most diverse in the city.

“It’s necessary to bring this school across the finish line and come hell or high water, we are going to figure out how to make this work,” Dowell said.

School district officials say they are not sure how much the school will eventually cost. In a statement, they said the new estimate is based on 2022 construction costs, whereas the old estimate was based on 2019 costs. They also said in January the city’s Public Building Commission, which manages construction projects for the school district, will take a more detailed look at the costs.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ.

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