When students arrive on the new campus of DePaul College Prep, 3300 N. Campbell Ave., the week of Aug. 24, they will find up-to-date classrooms, new science labs and spacious indoor and outdoor areas for study, sports and socializing.
The new stadium, with a track and turf field for football, soccer and lacrosse, was almost done by the end of July, and classroom furniture and supplies were waiting to be unpacked, said the principal, Megan Stanton-Anderson.
The school, which bought the former DeVry University 17-acre campus last year, is moving from the former Gordon Tech High School building less than a mile away, on California Avenue north of Addison Street.
DePaul Prep President Mary Dempsey said the move gives the students and faculty the facilities they deserve, to go along with an academic program that includes a partnership with DePaul University, an International Baccalaureate track, numerous AP classes and an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
“I think our students deserve this campus, and our faculty deserve it,” Dempsey said. “I want them to be learning in an environment that will elevate them.”
The new campus seems to be a draw for families, as the school has seen enrollment grow from 530 at the end of the last school year to 710 for the beginning of this year. The 2020-2021 freshman class is expected to be 267, compared to 179 for the 2019-2020 school year.
About 99 percent of students live in the city of Chicago.
Among them are Dan Pape’s two sons, Ford, a junior, and Charlie, a freshman. After the boys attended Chicago Public Schools for elementary school, Pape said the family liked the feeling of community and personal attention they found at DePaul Prep.
“We’re really excited about the new school location,” Pape said. “It has a feel much like a college campus. I’ve had the opportunity to walk through the building, and it’s quite impressive. It’s spacious and bright, and it’s equipped with state-of-the-art technology.”
His sons, he said, are mostly eager to get back into school.
“When we first started the planning for this school, the goal was to serve the community of Chicago with another thriving Catholic school on the North Side,” said Dempsey, who has been involved with the high school since it entered into its partnership with DePaul University in 2012. The school changed its name to DePaul Prep two years later. “It’s precisely what was predicted seven and eight years ago. If we put a high-quality Catholic high school in this area, which is so accessible to public transportation and people driving and even riding bicycles, people would come.”
The academic building was built in 2012 and came outfitted with the infrastructure needed for WiFi and hardware such as projectors in the classrooms. A $12.5 million expansion added four new science labs to go with two already on site, a botany lab, maker spaces, a chapel, a dining hall, music and theater spaces, the stadium and outdoor areas such as an environmental sciences garden.
The school’s capital campaign is now raising money for Phase II, a planned athletic center with three gyms, a pool, an indoor track and rooms for activities such as dance and yoga.
DePaul students had input into the design of some areas, Stanton-Anderson said. A group walked through the building before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down and then worked with architects over Zoom to make sure their ideas were incorporated into plans for the dining hall and other gathering spaces.
“They were really pleased with all the natural light,” she said, “and they wanted to make sure we preserved that.”
The students also contributed to a rebranding effort, adding health as one of the school’s core values, to go along with faith, respect, excellence and service, and suggesting the addition of the Chicago flag’s six-pointed stars and lake blue to the school seal.
One of the students that helped with that effort was Tammy McMiller’s son, Luke, who will be a junior and president of the student body.
“We were very excited about the new campus,” McMiller said. “They community’s always been great, but the vision was to make it something where they could expand on their programs and curriculum, with the botany program and the STEM program to be expanded.”
Stanton-Anderson said the hope is that the students see the new campus as something different than a traditional school building.
“We’re a college prep environment,” she said. “We wanted our students to be in an environment that led them to think about their future, that allowed them a level of independence while still giving them the ability to seek help and support.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Jan. 21 that four Catholic schools will close and two will consolidate operations at the end of this school year, effective June 30, 2021.
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