Lombard private school breaks ground on expansion
College Preparatory School of America in Lombard broke ground Friday on a $7 million expansion, the first visible step toward a long-awaited new building that will increase the capacity of the academically challenging school in the Islamic tradition.
Since alumni such as Asim Ansari were students in the 1990s, officials have wanted to expand on the former Green Valley school at 331 W. Madison St., which was built in three phases beginning in the 1930s.
"We've been hoping for this when I was in high school," said the 2000 CPSA graduate who now works as a dentist and has a preschooler and second-grader enrolled at his alma mater. "And now I'm hoping my kids get to see it."
Previous construction plans have been put on the shelf, sometimes because of fundraising struggles and most recently because of the recession in 2008, school board President Shahid Ansari said.
This time, the community already has raised half the funds it needs to complete the building, which will house high school students, allowing preschoolers through eighth-graders to spread out within the existing space.
So on Friday afternoon, teachers, alumni and students began to embrace the fact construction officially has begun.
"It's wonderful because now my children are going to the school," said 1996 graduate Filza Irfan, whose kids are in preschool, fifth grade and ninth grade. "This building is very old so they need a larger place, a cleaner place, more state-of-the art classrooms and equipment."
The CPSA community will further celebrate the beginning of the high school project with a free open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 14, with food and games behind the school.
Then another of the school's roughly 600 total alumni, Omar Ali, will kick off construction as the company he owns, Northwest General Contractors, conducts site preparation.
Once that begins -- and if the rest of the funding comes through in time -- work is expected to take about 18 months, said Mohammad Majeed, construction manager for the 33,000-square-foot building.
The new building will be raised behind the existing one, where a parking lot and a playground now stand, Parking will be moved to the front of the site, on the north side closest to Madison Street, where a full-size outdoor basketball court will be added.
Highlights of the future high school include a full-size gymnasium with bleachers and locker rooms, new science labs with updated technology and additional classrooms. Majeed said the new facility will increase the campus' capacity to more than 600 students. It has 434 now.
Board members say they intend to keep enrollment selective, looking for high-achieving students from all backgrounds. They're proud of the recognition they've received from The Washington Post every year since 2013, listing CPSA as the most challenging high school in Illinois.
Ansari said once the new high school is complete, the board will conduct an outreach campaign to market its academic offerings to Lombard-area students who are not Islamic.
"The only condition is they have to be achievers," Shahid Ansari said.
Tuition at the school, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is roughly $5,000 to $6,000 a year, and the board provides scholarships to those who are unable to pay.
Its 54 staff members include Bothaina Zahdan, who has taught Islamic studies and Arabic to junior high and high school students for the past 18 years. Devotion and lots of fundraising have allowed the high school to be ready for construction this year, she said.
"We were very patient," Zahdan said. "And our dream came true."