WIN: Francis Scott Key Public School in Austin Reopens as The Field School (Chicago 7 2015)

“Students attending a private Christian school will start the year in a renovated building that used to be Francis Scott Elementary School until CPS shuttered it nearly a decade ago. Now the building will house pre-K through eighth grade students attending The Field School.

“‘We’re so excited to be in the Austin neighborhood, in part because our original launch plan was to be in Austin,’ school head Jeremy Mann said. “So, to be now in 2022 opening our doors just a block away is a dream come true.’

“In a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for Monday, Aug. 22, parents, students, teachers and school administrators will see the renovated interiors of the north building, an upgraded playground and refinished parking lot, the first phase in their renovation plan. (Garcia Hernandez, AustinTalks, 8/21/22)

“Located in the South Austin neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, the building was originally home to the Francis Scott Key Public School. Built in 1907, the building was designed by Dwight Perkins when he was the chief architect of the Chicago Public Schools.

“The Key School originally served 300 students in kindergarten through 8th grade. As the neighborhood desegregated at the end of the 1960s, enrollment increased to nearly 800. The school remained overcrowded for decades, with the teachers’ lounge and several closets used as classrooms at one point.

“Through the early 2000s, the school district added several charter schools and other educational options to the area and the school’s enrollment began to drop. Within a decade, the school’s enrollment had been declined by half. In May of 2013, the Chicago Board of Education announced that it was closing 49 of its schools, the largest single wave of closings in the history of the United States.

“Using ‘low enrollment’ as the primary determining factor, the district flagged nearly half the schools in the system as under-capacity, including the Key School. The school closed in 2013 and has remained vacant since. Now, the doors will open once again to serve students of the South Austin neighborhood. (National Trust Community Investment Corporation)

Preservation Chicago encourages decisionmakers to pursue a Chicago Landmark Designation for the former Francis Scott Key Public School. Additionally, we encourage ownership to pursue a Adopt-a-Landmark funding for exterior renovation of this remarkable Dwight Perkins structure.

Preservation Chicago encourages the City of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education to accelerate the speed at which these former school buildings are returned to a community use through adaptive reuse including community oriented uses such as affordable housing. There are more than a dozen former Chicago Public School Buildings that remain vacant awaiting possible sale or reuse. Gyms, pools and auditoriums could be reused as community centers and school kitchens could be repurposed to serve meals to those most vulnerable within our communities.

Read the full story at AustinTalks

Field School students to start classes at renovated Key Elementary building, Francia Garcia Hernandez, AustinTalks, 8/21/22

National Trust Community Investment Corporation


  1. My wife, two young daughters, and I moved to Austin at the end of 1972. Both girls attended Key School, starting in 1975 with kindergarten and continuing through third and fifth grades. At that time, most students were Black; our Vietnamese-Caucasian daughters were a doubly small minority. To this day, they will say that it was the best school they ever attended… including high school, college, and graduate schools. Its success was due to the leadership of the charismatic principal, Bernard Karlin… later to become principal of Montefiore Academy for Boys [with behavioral problems]. Although we no longer live in Chicago, we are saddened that both schools are no longer part of the Chicago Public Schools.


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