Photo by Joe Boyle
Signs have been posted in front of Our Lady of Ridge School, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge, alerting residents to an open house that will be held Sunday, Jan. 29.
Mary Grisolano said that her years as a student at Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School provided her with great experiences, in addition to a great education.
After spending a few years in New York City, Grisolano felt the pull to come home to Chicago Ridge. One reason for her return was that one day her child can attend Our Lady of the Ridge, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge.
Now Grisolano, alumni, teachers and students at Our Lady of the Ridge have been working to keep the school open. The Chicago Archdiocese has stated that Our Lady of the Ridge has to increase funding and enrollment totals by the end of February or risk closing their doors in June.
The announcement was made public on Jan. 11, which was the same day that St. Louis de Montfort in Oak Lawn had been informed by the archdiocese that the school will close, effective on June 30. Low enrollment was the main reason given for the decision to close that school.
Grisolano has become the media relations volunteer and is confident that the community will rally behind Our Lady of the Ridge. An open house will be held Sunday, Jan. 29 to start off Catholic Schools Week. She said that along with the alumni, business and community leaders are also making efforts to keep the school open.
“We really feel good about this,” Grisolano said. “We are working on a long-term plan and everyone in the community is rallying behind this. Basically, we are getting the word out and everybody is excited.”
Enrollment has been as high as 196 at Our Lady of the Ridge but had declined over the years. But Grisolano is confident because the community is reaching out and the majority of current students have signed up for next fall. Enrollment had slipped to about 115 but there over 130 students now. After the open house and push for enrollment, those figures should rise, according to school officials.
The school is required to raise about $250,000 by the end of February. Alumni board members have said that they have raised nearly $100,000 going into this week. School officials are pleased that most current students are coming back. Our Lady of the Ridge had to raise their tuition about $1,000 to nearly $3,700 per year.
Along with the open house on Sunday, the Our Lady of the Ridge alumni and friends are holding a fundraiser from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park. The fee is $35 for food and refreshments. Entertainment and raffles will also be held.
Sr. Stephanie Kondik, principal at Our Lady of the Ridge, shares Grisolano’s confidence. She said the school is special and refers to it as a “little gem.” Kondik has served two terms at Our Lady of the Ridge, spending eight years in the interim at St. Patricia School in Hickory Hills. After her term at St. Patricia, Kondik returned to Our Lady of Ridge in 2002 and has been principal at Our Lady of Ridge for 23 years overall.
“We have had people coming out from all over to help out,” said Sr. Stephanie. “The parents have been unbelievable. We have had businesses and the community helping out.”
Grisolano and the principal said Our Lady of Ridge offers students a variety of programs, including the OLOR Junior Stewardship Club. Abby Cross, executive director of StandUp for Kids, met with Our Lady of Ridge club students in the fourth through eighth grade Wednesday to thank them for coordinating a donation of 10 bags of clothing, socks and personal items to be used in the work of finding, stabilizing and assisting youths on the streets.
The school also has a choir, band and athletic programs. Sr. Stephanie said that volunteer parents will be on hand at the open house to greet residents who can sign up to help assist with school programs. The parish has also provided subsidies to help some parents pay their children’s tuition.
“I think Our Lady of the Ridge really helps out students,” said Sr. Stephanie about the school, which opened in 1954. “They are protected here and they are safe. We provide some sanity for them. The kids get a solid education. It’s a little school that deals with the whole child. The whole community is behind us and we pray for each other.”
Grisolano has a son who attends Our Lady of the Ridge and a toddler whom she hopes will be able to do the same
“Our Lady of the Ridge, as cliché as it sounds, is a real community,” Grisolano said. “They have welcomed my son with open arms. I’m still in association with alumni and everyone loves the school. I have a little one run running around here right now and I would like to see him go to Our Lady of the Ridge.”