Waukegan’s Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, a work-study opportunity for hundreds of students over the last 14 years, is slated to open a state-of-the-art campus Tuesday, repurposing an old Kmart store.
The new high school at 3106 Belvidere Road is the result of an $18.5 million adaptive reuse project led by JGMA architects and the McShane Construction Company that wows visitors with a bright palette of blues and greens both inside and outside the structure.
The goal was to take the big-box stigma and its not-so-appealing suburban surroundings — including parking lots, strip malls and fast-food joints — and turn it into a sprawling, 120,000-square-foot, cohesive educational hub, according to a school statement.
Two huge skylights let natural light bathe the interior where the cafeteria and the library commons area are located. On either side are classrooms, 18 total, and laboratories that have glass walls to let light into the rooms. Windows dot the front of the building, letting in more natural light to offices and meeting rooms.
“Everyone talks about the bright colors, but it grows on you,” said Mary Beth Sammons, communications officer, while taking a visitor around the building.
Sammons added that the blue-and-green palette “really goes well with all the natural light,” she said.
Preston Kendall, president of Cristo Rey St. Martin, said the school is a Catholic learning community that empowers young people to become men and women of faith, purpose and service. The rigorous college preparatory curriculum, integrated with a relevant work-study experience, allows students to graduate ready to succeed in college and in life.
From the school’s website:
“This is a milestone moment for us,” said Preston Kendall, president of Cristo Rey St. Martin. “Almost six years ago we embarked on a bold and daring plan to grow enrollment from 240 to over 400. We have a lot of really talented young people who come from very hard-working families who need help. We believe education is the door to those opportunities.” The school has outgrown its current leased space at the former St. Joseph Parish complex, a dilapidated former grade school on a two-acre property comprised of less than 30,000 square feet on the south side of Waukegan.
Part of a national network of 32 schools, CRSM was the first Catholic high school to open in 50 years in Lake County with 95 students in 2004. The school exclusively serves families with limited financial resources. Eighty percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The average family income of the students enrolled is $38,277 and the average family size is 4.4.
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