UPDATED: 10/29/2014 3:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cardinal Francis George on Wednesday said, as he wraps up his remaining three weeks as the Catholic Archbishop in Chicago, he’ll finalize plans to close and consolidate some Catholic schools with low enrollment.
School facilities that will close at the end of June 2015 are: St. Peter, 8140 Niles Center Road, Skokie; St. Hyacinth, 3640 West Wolfram Street, Chicago; St. Ladislaus, 3330 North Lockwood Avenue, Chicago; St. Turibius, 4120 West 57th Street, Chicago; St. Rene Goupil, 6340 South New England Avenue; and St. Lawrence O’Toole, 4101 St. Lawrence Avenue, Matteson.
In an open letter to Chicago’s Catholic community, the cardinal said he feels obligated to make the decisions about the future of schools with low enrollment before he retires next month.
“We will not be able to maintain all schools in their current form,” he wrote “Some school communities will be welcomed into healthier schools to bolster them further. Others will come together to form a new consolidated school that will use the best of the schools’ buildings, teacher resources and program approaches. Some others will embark on a venture to build up a renewed school from below.”
George said current funding levels for Catholic schools in Chicago are unsustainable, especially for those schools with enrollment well below the required minimum of 225 students.
“Too many of our schools suffer from low enrollment, in many cases driven by the inability of families to afford Catholic school tuition,” the cardinal wrote.
He noted many families in the church have household incomes of $40,000 or less, and for a family with two or three children the average tuition of $4,500 per student would be equal to 20 to 30 percent of their family income.
“We have responded to this challenge by initiating a significant capital campaign to raise a $150 million endowment fund for scholarships, of which more than $80 million has already been contributed or pledged. The annual scholarships provided by this endowment will be a critical factor in ensuring the long-term economic viability of our school system,” George said.
While the cardinal acknowledged any disruptions for Catholic schools would be “difficult and painful,” he said the church has no choice, and will work toward a smooth transition for affected students and parents.
George hands over the reins of the Archdiocese to Bishop Blasé Cupich on Nov. 18.
The following reconsolidations will take effect July 1, 2015:
St. Dorothy School at 7740 South Eberhart Avenue and St. Columbanus School at 7120 South Calumet Avenue, are partnering to form a new Catholic school to be named the Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, at 7210 South Calumet Avenue.
In Lake County, Holy Cross School at 720 Elder Lane in Deerfield and St. James School, at 140 North Avenue in Highwood are partnering to merge students and traditions from St. James to Holy Cross.
In Des Plaines, Our Lady of Destiny School, 1880 Ash Street, is partnering with St. Zachary School, 567 West Algonquin Road, to merge students and traditions from Our Lady of Destiny to St. Zachary.
The Nativity Early Childhood Center at 2740 West 68th Street in Chicago, will continue to serve the Marquette Park neighborhood, with the potential partnership of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Beginning in the fall of 2015, Saint Agatha Catholic Academy at 3151 West Douglas Boulevard in Chicago, will become an Early Childhood Center with a potential partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Additional programs that may be provided to the children and community of North Lawndale will be released in coming weeks. Families with primary and upper grade students at Saint Agatha will be actively welcomed at nearby Catholic schools that have the capacity to accept new students in the 2015-2016 school year.