GEMS World Academy in Lakeshore East Credit: Facebook

DOWNTOWN — There’s been months of uncertainty around the future of GEMS World Academy, a prestigious private school Downtown — but now school officials say it’s here to stay.

Officials said Monday they have secured a lease on the building through 2033, with an option to renew.

“We are delighted to know that we have a long-term lease and some security for a future here,” said Cindy Rigling, co-head of school for GEMS Academy Chicago.

School officials announced in November they would phase out GEMS’ high school program and redirect resources to its preschool through eighth grade programs, and they said they were in negotiations to determine if the school would remain in Chicago.

The school at 350 E. South Water St. opened in 2014 and enrolls about 400 students in pre-K through 12th grade, according to International Schools Database. Annual tuition is $28,500-$38,800.

In October, parents were notified about the school’s uncertain future and were encouraged to have a “plan B” in case a lease could not be secured, officials said. But since the news, co-heads Rigling and Tracey Wood said they’ve had several re-enrollments for next year.

Still in limbo is the school’s nine-story expansion, announced in 2019. The additional building would have expanded the school’s capability to house high school students.

Construction stopped in 2020 during the pandemic, and the buildout has yet to be completed, leaving GEMS high school students without a dedicated school building. The school is renting out a suite that was designed as a school nearby, Wood previously said.

The exterior of the building is nearly finished, but the interior is not, said GEMS Chief Operating Officer Jamee Thrush.

Thrush said she could not offer more details on the future of the building at this time.

“We needed to secure a long-term lease for preschool through eighth [grade], and that is what we’re moving forward and what we’re most excited about right now. I think we all have hopes and aspirations that at some point we’ll be talking about an upper school again,” Thrush said.

With the viability of the school secured, administration is moving forward with admissions for next year on a “rolling basis” based on availability. There is an open house 10 a.m.-noon April 22 for those interested in learning more.

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