Photo by Joe Boyle
The administration at St. Louis de Montfort Elementary School in Oak Lawn was notified on Jan. 11 that they will close in June.
On the surface, it appeared like any other day last Thursday morning at St. Louis de Montfort Elementary School in Oak Lawn.
The parking lot was full of vehicles and students were in class. However, it was far from an ordinary day at the school, 8840 S. Ridgeland Ave.
The school administration was informed the day before, Jan. 11, that they would be one of two suburban schools that will close their doors effective on June 30. The other school scheduled to close is St. Joseph School in Homewood.
School officials had little to say last Thursday as they arrived for work for the first time after learning about Montfort’s fate.
“I did not see it coming,” said one school official. “I am surprised.”
St. Louis de Montfort is closing based on declining enrollment. According to the Chicago Archdiocese, school and parish leadership at St. Louis de Montfort recommended that the school not reopen for the 2017-18 school year. The recommendation was reviewed and endorsed by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools, Archdiocesan School Board and Vicariate Bishop Andrew Wypych.
Our Lady of the Ridge School, 10811 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge, is one of two schools that have been put on notice by the Chicago Archdiocese to improve their enrollment numbers. The Chicago Archdiocese has informed the Our Lady of the Ridge administration that they have to increase school enrollment or they could face closure this summer.
St. Louis de Montfort School opened in 1965. The school had as many as 210 students in 2005, according to the archdiocese. Enrollment increased in the next five years as Montfort had its largest total with 266 students. However, the enrollment has fallen dramatically since then and was last listed at 133.
The Family School Association at St. Louis de Montfort held a fundraiser for the school at an Oak Lawn pizza restaurant, a day before the closure of the school was announced. Some of the parents who did not want to speak publicly said they were startled by the news. Some of them mentioned that the school was in transition but were encouraged by new fundraising efforts and the addition of a new principal, Melissa Wilson, and a new pastor, the Rev. Stanley Stuglik.
St. Louis de Montfort not only drew students from Oak Lawn, but from nearby Bridgeview and Burbank. The archdiocese was asked if the students that attended St. Louis de Montfort will be encouraged to attend St. Gerald School, 9320 S. 55th Court, Oak Lawn, or St. Albert the Great School, 5535 S. State Road, Burbank.
“We are working with families to transition students to any of our Catholic schools,” said Anne Maselli, director of communications and marketing for the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools. “The archdiocese has a new resource in place, a Student Transition Enrollment Manager, who will work one-on-one with families to find the right next school for them.”
Our Lady of Ridge School and church opened 62 years ago. The church was remodeled in the early 2000s. Figures for Our Lady of Ridge’s current enrollment were not available. The school in recent years had an enrollment of 196. The Chicago Ridge school also attracts students from nearby Worth.
Supporters of Our Lady of the Ridge plan to hold a series of fundraisers in an effort to reach the enrollment figures that the archdiocese requires for the school to remain open. Organizers and school officials have until the end of February to increase enrollment.