St. Jerome School in Bridgeport is looking forward to its next 100 years with the construction of a new parish center and school gym.
The school, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2022, will share the space with the parish community.
On April 30, they broke ground on the project, which had been many years in the making, said Principal Mary Hyland.
“There is so much excitement in the air that we broke ground,” Hyland said. “Everyone feels kind of an exhale that we can move forward, this is happening. It’s a perfect start to our next 100 years.”
The gym will be a welcome addition because students now must be bused to nearby Armour Square Park for physical education classes.
“We’re really, really excited to use the gym for our school,” Hyland said. “Now they will be able to have a home gym that they go to for PE, and we’ll be able to have a home gym for different athletics and also use that new space as a gathering place for the community to bring both campuses together, both sets of parents together and really build that sense of school pride with the two different campuses.”
The school already expanded its footprint in fall of 2020 when it acquired the former Santa Lucia school building. That became an early learning center for pre-K through third grade, with an indoor playground and specialty rooms for classes such as Spanish and art.
School families appreciated the expansion, she said.
“Especially for those preschoolers coming out of a daycare setting or being home with mom, it’s far less intimidating for them. It’s really a very welcoming environment,” Hyland said.
St. Jerome has many legacy families from the Bridgeport/Armour Square community of the city — families who have multiple generations who attended the school — and is reaching out to invite new families who are not necessarily from the neighborhood to enroll in the school.
The Santa Lucia campus is within walking distance to the main campus, which encourages interaction among all the students, Hyland said.
Franciscan Father Antonio Musa, pastor of St. Jerome Parish, said he is looking forward to the new spaces, which will include an elevator.
“People who belong to this parish are very invested in the community. They want to build the community and they want to work for the community,” Musa said. “That’s something I found when I first came to St. Jerome. I was amazed by this.”
“I’m very excited for this new project mostly because of the people. The people will have the space to continue what they’ve been doing, and we will be able to continue our mission to the neighborhood here in Bridgeport, but also as a Croatian parish for the larger Chicagoland Croatian community,” he said.
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