Chicago (CBS) — The church bell tolls for one Catholic grade school on Chicago’s South Side.
Kevin Jacobs has three children at St. Walter School.
“I was baptized here,” he said. “God opened my heart and brought me into the church that way, so it means a lot to us.”
Jacobs’ fourth child would start next year, but he and dozens of parents are now scrambling to keep the Morgan Park Catholic school open. The task is daunting. They must raise hundreds of thousands of dollars fast.
“What upsets me is that the archdiocese gave us six weeks to come up with almost $400,000,” Jacobs said. “We asked them last night at the meeting if we could have a couple more months, and they would not give us a straight answer.”
Specifically, archdiocesan officials said the community must raise $364,345 by Jan. 7 or the small elementary school will close at the end of the year. Enrollment, down by almost a half in five years, is the main reason for the fiscal crisis.
“We don’t see families like we did years ago here – 8, 10, 12 kids,” Ald. Matt Shea said.
That’s led, in part, to an ongoing struggle for the archdiocese. Currently, there are 181 elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago. That’s down from 215 in 2010 and 267 in 2000. But, Jacobs said this 65-year-old school is worth saving for more than just sentimental reasons.
“The community needs this school,” Jacobs said. “I don’t know where else I could send my children on the South Side that they would have such diversity.”
But, there’s another concern. Even if St. Walter’s community raises enough money to stay open this year and next week, parents say if enrollment doesn’t increase, they’ll be back in the same spot in about another year.