Photo by Joe Boyle
Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge will close in June due to low enrollment, according to the Chicago Archdiocese.
Our Lady of the Ridge School, which has been in existence for 64 years, will close its doors for the last time in June due to the low enrollment, according to the Chicago Archdiocese.
The announcement was made on the night of Jan. 17. Our Lady of the Ridge joins Incarnation, 5757 W. 127th St., Palos Heights, which is also scheduled to close in June due to low enrollment. Three other Catholic elementary schools are also scheduled to close at the end of the school year.
A story first appeared in the Jan. 11 edition of The Reporter stating that parishioners feared that the school, 10810 S. Oxford Ave., Chicago Ridge, would close this year.
Parishioners, parents and faculty have been aware of Our Lady of the Ridge’s fate for some time. Most had little to say this month publically. The school was informed that it could close last year but school officials, alumni and volunteers raised over the required $236,000 and had a minimum of 114 students returning in the fall. They managed to accomplish the feat in less than a month speared by a fundraiser at Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park that drew over 800 people.
However, many eighth-graders did not return this fall and over 30 students from other classes did not report for classes in August. Still, supporters of Our Lady of the Ridge, which Sr. Stephanie Kondik, the school principal, referred to as a “little gem,” said the school was not provided the continued support of the archdiocese.
“I thought when they closed St. Louis de Montfort last year that they could have done something more,” said Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar, who is a graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge. “Now they are closing Our Lady of the Ridge and Incarnation. They could have combined St. Louis de Montfort, Our Lady of the Ridge and Incarnation.
“But I just don’t know what the archdiocese is thinking,” added Tokar. “I think they are shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t know where people are going to send their kids to school.”
A meeting was held last Thursday night at Incarnation Church to discuss future plans for the students there. Our Lady of the Ridge was mentioned a couple of times during the meeting. However, no specific plans have been arranged yet for the students at Incarnation and Our Lady of the Ridge
“We’re working with the families of Incarnation and Our Lady of the Ridge on looking for schools that they can attend,” said Anne Maselli, director of marketing for the Chicago Archdiocese. “Some families are interested in the fact that some students would like to enter as a group at some schools. We are also looking into that for families.”
Our Lady of the Ridge School had a current enrollment of 133 students, according to the archdiocese. Officials from the archdiocese said that the school had been facing declining enrollment in recent years, which has created a strain on the school’s finances.
But Worth Mayor Mary Werner agrees with Tokar that more could have been done in terms of keeping Catholic grade school education in the community.
“Here’s the worst part – we have two schools closing,” Werner said. “We had parents who were sending their children to Incarnation. Last year, they closed St. Louis de Montfort, which was just down Ridgeland. Now we have no schools in the area. I don’t know what the parents will do. It’s just very sad.”
The archdiocese has planned some mergers involving some of the closing schools this year. While no mergers or school groupings are scheduled right now, Maselli said the archdiocese will continue to talk to parents of students at Incarnation and Our Lady of the Ridge.
“We’re also working with teachers and faculty members at these schools who will be displaced and find other schools for them,” Maselli said.
Tokar still finds the decision to close Our Lady of the Ridge and Incarnation schools perplexing.
“It’s really frustrating,” Tokar said. “These people worked so hard to raise over $300,000 to keep the school open. These people worked their butts off. And then they are told a year later we are going to close the school.
“It’s hard for me to reconcile this as a Catholic what they (the archdiocese) are doing,” Tokar added. “You would have thought they would have had some kind of plan ahead of time. Combining these schools would have made the most sense.”