Families discuss possible closing of Catholic schools - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Families discuss possible closing of Catholic schools

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Parents and faculty of Our Lady of Victory School showed up on campus Friday night for an emergency meeting to discuss the school's finances and fate.

"We're meeting tonight to try and see if there's anything that we can do," said Rebecca Miedema.

OLV is one of six schools slated to close its doors if independent funding is not secured by the end of this month.

Miedema has four children who attend the school.

"You can't just throw in the towel. What kind of parents would we be if we didn't show them to fight for something we believe in so that's what we're going to try and do tonight," said Miedema.

"With a little help from God and the people in this community I think we can pull through and hopefully the archdiocese has some open ears left with the situation where they can see that this is a school that is growing and take a second look at closing this school because the grades that are growing are the younger grades," said Jim Handrigar.

On its Facebook page, OLV posted a message to its nearly 500 fans saying, "Want to show your support for OLV School? Visit our website to make a donation or pledge. You can also send a check..."

"My parents were baptized here, I was baptized here, my children and my grandchildren so it's a very emotional issue for myself and for all the parishioners here," said 38th Ward Alderman Timothy Cullerton.

But the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools must cut ten million dollars from the budget.

DNA Info says the archdiocese would be willing to work with parents and school leaders to develop a plan that would keep the school open next year - if it was entirely self-sufficient.

"It couldn't have been worse timing. The short notice, we have three weeks to come up with a plan. This parish has been here a hundred years," said Cullerton.

This meeting followed a similar one that took place at St. Florian on Thursday night.

St. Florian School parents were invited via Facebook to a meeting about the school's future on Thursday evening.

"I'm very upset because you know this is a good school. My daughter is in sixth grade and it's going to affect me because now I have to look for another school for her," said Anna Gonzalez.

St. Florian's fate remains a mystery though it is one of the six schools that must come up with their own funding or risk shutting down.

"Now, I have to come home and tell them they won't be coming here if the school is going to be closing," said Gonzalez.

But Scott Tompkins has already embraced the bad news. On the chopping block - Our Lady of Victory School where Tompkins' 9 year old son Rory is a student.

"It's devastating. I have two older kids that went through here and now I have a fourth grader, it's devastating. The archdiocese came to a meeting last night and just told us it's a money thing and we're hurting and it hurt because we have such a great school," said Tompkins.

The school has struggled with enrollment in past years but Tompkins says the recent trend was showing growth.

"We're on the rise but it wasn't good enough for them… My fourth grader, the reality of another school? Not going to go over good. My older ones who are out of college are devastated," said Tompkins.

Thursday night the Archdiocese of Chicago issued the following statement on the issue:

"The Archdiocese of Chicago has a historic and deep commitment to Catholic education as a means of grounding young people, both Catholic and from other faith traditions, in the virtues that produce responsible members of society. We are proud that our schools continue the long standing tradition of providing strong academic programs and a welcoming and affirming presence in neighborhoods throughout the City of Chicago and suburban Cook and Lake counties.

Because of this commitment, the Archdiocese has invested significant dollars to support the operations of schools. In last five years alone, the Archdiocese contributed more than $100 million to operate our school system, over and above what local parishes contributed. Because we recognize continued support at this level is unsustainable, last year the Office of Schools developed a strategic plan aimed at building a viable, high-quality network that will be responsive to the needs of our communities.

However, our analysis of demographic shifts confirmed that, despite historic growth in the system overall, some schools would be difficult to stabilize and some closures would likely be required over time. Many of these schools are in areas where the population of school children has declined and some had physical plants that did not lend themselves to today's instructional requirements.

At least six schools that did not meet our criteria for sustainability and growth potential will close at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

The families of the 775 children affected by the closures will be encouraged to transfer their children to nearby Catholic schools and offered tuition discounts to offset any inconvenience. We believe these actions will result in our students' continuing to receive excellent instruction and faith formation in more robust, better resourced schools.

"We are committed to providing a high-quality educational and faith formation experience to every child in our schools," said Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, O.P., Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. "By focusing our resources on schools that are well positioned to attract an optimum enrollment level and equipped to meet the needs of a modern curriculum we can help ensure this network will remain sustainable over the long term.""

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