Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

All archdiocesan elementary schools
to remain open

By Kristin Peterson

All 217 Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago will remain open for the 2007-08 school year. The May 22 announcement stated that no schools would close or be consolidated for the first time in 45 years.

The only Catholic high school to close is Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary. The closure of the high school seminary was announced in September.

The archdiocesan schools face a projected financial deficit of $10.2 million for the next school year. The archdiocese will provide $8.2 million in operating grants to the schools, which includes $2.2 million in addition to the $6 million that the archdiocese usually allocates to the schools. The Big Shoulders Fund also will provide a $2 million grant to schools in the neediest areas of Chicago.

“The cardinal wanted to make a commitment not to close the schools,” said Nicholas Wolsonovich, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago. This commitment shows that “our schools are here to stay,” Wolsonovich added.

With a decrease in enrollment at Catholic schools over the past several decades, the closure and consolidation of Catholic schools has become a fairly common occurrence. While the closure of a school can be upsetting to the students and parents, Wolsonovich points out the important role Catholic schools play for the entire church.

“These schools are important to the educational mission of the Catholic church,” he said. “We believe Catholic schools are tremendously important for passing on the faith.”

But the schools still face significant financial needs.

Wolsonovich recognizes that it will be difficult for the archdiocese to provide more money when the school budget inevitably increases. “It is going to be hard for us to add more money every year,” he said. “[The schools] have to develop other resources, local resources.”

The schools can develop this local support through transitional grants and by establishing stronger school boards.

Wolsonovich acknowledged that some schools, like those in the inner city, might always need grants because they have fewer local resources.

Genesis, the strategic plan for Catholic schools in the archdiocese, provides resources for the schools in the areas of Catholic identity, academic excellence and financial vitality.

“We believe Genesis points us in the right direction to address many of the challenges [Catholic schools] face,” Wolsonovich said.

The Office for Catholic Schools plans to release an action plan for Genesis that schools can use. In addition, the Office of School Communications and Marketing assists schools in ways to improve their marketing.