UPDATE: Closed schools include one in Skokie and another in Highwood.
Citing rising costs and low enrollment, Cardinal Francis George has said some Archdiocese Schools will be closed or consolidated.
George made the announcement in Catholic New World, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newspaper.
“We will not be able to maintain all schools in their current form,” George wrote in a column that did not identify any specific schools targeted under the plan.
“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, teachers resources and program approaches.”
The news should not surprise some of the schools, as the archdiocese was sending signals earlier this year to those that were at a critical point.
“A fairly large group of schools at risk have an average enrollment of only 145, well below the required minimum of 225,” George wrote.
Meetings were held with those at-risk schools in May to notify them of their status, George wrote. But “many of these schools were not able to grow in student numbers” he added.
“Supporting many low enrollment schools, particularly those with demographic challenges, spreads our scarce resources very thin and limits our ability to invest dollars in strengthening viable school offerings for our students.”
The Archdiocese school system currently educates more than 82,000 Chicago-area children in 240 elementary and high schools, George wrote.
“We remain as committed as ever to Catholic education, and we believe a more appropriately sized network will enable us to strengthen our system and serve our children more effectively.”
George wrote that though operating costs are lower than at public schools, expenses have continued to rise. As a result, he wrote, “the cost of a Catholic education is now beyond what many families can afford.” Because of this, the archdiocese has helped fund school operating costs to the tune of about $165 million from local parish contributions and Archdiocesan assets over the past five years, he wrote.
Operating aid to schools from the archdiocese was more than $23 million in the 2012 fiscal year. It has declined slightly, George wrote, to $18 million in the 2014 fiscal year.
The announcement of which schools will come at 3:30 p.m. today.