New Catholic high school to open on West Side

CHICAGO Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School will begin classes this fall, before construction of the school is even finished.

The freshman class of Christ the King will take classes in the fall at a nearby grammar school until theirs opens in 2009. A new class will be added each year for a total of 600 students in grades 9-12.

The archdiocese was seeing a trend where dozens of catholic schools closed in recent years. But now, Christ the King is the first time the archdiocese has increased its number of schools in 42 years.

Vacant, boarded-up buildings used to sit on the lot at 5058 W. Jackson. Soon, construction will start on Christ the King College Prep, a multi-million dollar high school that will open next year.

"Today, it is the power of hope that breaks ground to create Christ the King," said Rev. Christopher Devron, Christ the King College Prep.

Chicago's archbishop and mayor were part of a group that broke ground for what has been called a "ground-breaking" school. Christ the King will be modeled after Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen where students work at a Chicago-area business five days a month to offset a substantial part of their annual nutrition. There are now schools in the Cristo Rey Network nationwide. Christ the King will be the 20th.

"The young people, besides going to school and getting a top notch college prep education, by going to work 5 days a month, they're seeing a future for themselves and they get excited about life," said Rev. John Foley, Cristo Rey Network.

The incoming freshmen are already buzzing about the jobs they hope to get.

"I'm more adventurous so I would want to work either in a law firm or health," said Michael Davis, Jr., student.

The school will serve families in the Austin neighborhood who could not otherwise afford a private education.

"I'm grateful that we have now a new catholic school here that builds upon what has been here that creates a new nexus of relationships that is in a part of the city that is dear to my heart and a part of the community that is cherished by me," said Francis Cardinal George, Chicago Archdiocese.

Community groups approached the Cristo Rey Network and lobbied to bring the school to Austin.

"Parents wanted a spiritual foundation to the education, they wanted that kind of environment, so this has grown from the bottom up in this community," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, Leaders Network.

Cristo Rey schools feature a longer school day and year and the expectation that every student will attend college. Nearly 98 percent of all Cristo Rey graduates go to college.

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