At least 6 schools in Chicago archdiocese slated to close

Manya Brachear Pashman and Dan Waters (Chicago Tribune/(MCT))

Six elementary school in the Chicago Archdiocese are slated for closing at the end of the school year, with possibly more under the gun, officials said today.

Superintendent of Catholic Schools Sister Mary Paul McCaughey said there is little to no chance of a reprieve, despite efforts already gearing up to save some of the schools.

“We are being hard-nosed because these are the savings that have to be achieved,” she said.

Parents and officials at Our Lady of Victory and the Academy of St. Benedict in Chicago and Santa Maria del Popolo School in Mundelein already have been told, and McCaughey was headed this afternoon to another suburban school for a meeting there.

Two more schools are to be notified by the end of the week, said McCaughey.

Families and staff of Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., were told in a meeting Wednesday evening that the archdiocese can no longer afford to subsidize the school’s budget, said principal Jennifer Hodge.

Parents and staff are committed to figuring out a plan to make up the deficit and keep the school open, Hodge said. “That is a possibility,” Hodge said of the school closing. “It is not 100 percent set in stone.”

Also informed this week were parents and officials with Santa Maria del Popolo School in Mundelein.

Donna Rothmann, business manager at Santa Maria del Popolo School in Mundelein, said the community was notified at a meeting on Monday night–after Archdiocese schools had been closed for the day because of weather–that the school will be shutting its doors June 30.

Rothmann said it was a financial decision.

“We’re sad, but we’re going to fight our way through this and take care of our students,” Rothmann said. “I am just trying to be positive and support them.”

Students currently enrolled at Santa Maria del Popolo will get priority enrollment at St. Mary of the Annunciation School in Mundelein, which is one of three schools in a consortium that feed into Frassati Catholic Academy, a middle school in Wauconda that rounds out the four-school consortium.

Families will get a $1,000 voucher to put toward the enrollment, Rothmann said.

Close to 80 students currently attend Santa Maria del Popolo, which has been around for 60 years. It serves students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“All the Catholic schools in the area know what happened, and they’re all ready to welcome our families for next year,” she said.

While Rothmann said she wasn’t sure what was going to happen to employees, a local parent said she hoped to raise money for teachers and administrators to give them a higher-than-normal bonus at the end of the year.

Laura Castillo, who has two students at Santa Maria del Popolo, said she has been active in fundraising efforts for the school since she moved to Mundelein in 2010.

Frassati was formed in 2010 in an effort to cut costs by eliminating sixth through eighth grades at each of the individual schools.

Castillo said with the budgetary issues Santa Maria del Popolo over the past few years, she knew there was a possibility of a school closing to cut costs.

Still, she took the news hard.

“We worked our hardest, but at the end of the day, we weren’t able to cross the finish line,” she said. “What can we say, other than we tried? What else can we do?”

While Castillo said she’s holding out hope that Santa Maria del Popolo might reopen in the future, for now she’s happy that her kids, ages 7 and 8,  will be able to go to another school in town.

Principal Pat Strang splits her time between Santa Maria del Popolo and St. Mary of the Annunciation, Castillo said.

“My kids will be able to go into a new environment knowing a familiar face,” she said.

Check back for updates.

Tribune reporter Liam Ford contributed

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