Archdiocese of Chicago to Close Several Area Schools

The Archdiocese of Chicago plans to close several elementary schools in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, officials said Thursday.

The superintendent of the Chicago catholic schools, Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, said an estimated six schools will close at the end of the academic year, citing low enrollment.

McCaughey said she would not name which schools were closing, but said at least three schools have been notified.

Our Lady of Victory School on the Northwest Side was one of the schools notified, school officials confirmed Thursday.

According to a post on the school's Facebook page, the school is expected to close June 30 unless it can come up with a viable budget that eliminates the need for nearly $400,000 in yearly grants from the Archdiocese.

The school is set to hold a meeting Friday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the issue.

"It's really hard for me, because at every single meeting I think I almost started to cry because people who've been here would say, 'I've been here 37 years,' or someone who's been baptized there or sent their kids there," McCaughey said. Cardinal Francis George reacted to the impending closings in Skokie Thursday.

"To make those budgets secure, we start to see financial problems that perhaps aren't solveable," George said. "We have scholarship dollars available through private donors, through Big Shoulders, through the Cardinal's Fund, to keep these kids in Catholic schools, so they can keep the Catholic school culture."

The Daily Herald is reporting that Santa Maria Del Popolo School in Mundelein was also among the notified schools.

There may be even more schools closed as the Archdiocese finishes its review.

McCaughey says "there is a lot of hurt" and even if the schools have been on a watch list, learning they will close "is always a surprise."

The names of the closed schools may be released on Friday. The announcement comes as the Catholic schools saw its first increase in enrollment in more than 40 years.

Last year, five Catholic schools closed to deal with an ongoing deficit.

Cardinal Francis George said last February that administrative operations were running with $30 million operating deficits for the previous four years.

"Like so many other families and institutions, the Archdiocese of Chicago has suffered during the economic downturn of these past few years," Cardinal George said in a statement on the Archdiocese website, noting "we cannot continue to work as if the effects of the recession were not being felt."

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