Photo by Joe Boyle
Some parishioners are concerned that Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge will close at the end of the school year. A spokesperson for the Chicago Archdiocese said that no decision has been made about Our Lady of the Ridge or other Catholic schools at this time.
Some parishioners and parents of children who attend Our Lady of the Ridge School in Chicago Ridge said the school is destined to close in June.
Residents and parents have been discussing the issue for over the past month due to low enrollment numbers at the school, 10810 S. Oxford Ave. Enrollment figures were not available but not as many students returned this fall as had been hoped.
While some parishioners have said the announcement of the school’s closing will occur just before or during Catholic Schools Week, the Chicago Archdiocese said nothing has been decided.
“The Archdiocese has not made any decisions at this time about these schools,” said Susan Thomas, a spokesperson for the Chicago Archdiocese. “Right now, no decisions have been made.”
Another school whose future is in doubt is Incarnation Elementary School, 5757 W. 127th St., Palos Heights. Alumni, parents and community members held a fundraiser Sunday at Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park.
Andrea Covert, one of the organizers of the fundraiser who is attempting to keep Incarnation School open, said that members of Our Lady of the Ridge Parish attended the event Sunday in solidarity.
“”We have reached out to Our Lady of the Ridge and have invited students to attend our school,” said Covert, who added that the fundraiser drew over 600 people. “Why the archdiocese wants to close both our schools is a mystery.”
One of the parishioners who attended the Incarnation fundraiser was Marianne Gillfillan, school board president at Our Lady of the Ridge. She recalled that alumni, board members, parents, current students and the overall community turned out in force for a fundraiser that was also held last February at Bourbon Street to keep the school open.
Over 800 people attended the fundraiser a year ago, and Gillfillan said you could feel the excitement at the beginning of this school year. However, she said they lost not only their eighth-grade class but at least 35 other students.
“It hurt the situation immensely,” Gilfillan said. “The only way for any of the schools to stay open at this point is to have students. To get Catholic parents to invest in Catholic education these days is extremely difficult. A lot of it has to do with the money aspect. The parents that still invest in Catholic education today are sacrificing their (butts) off for their kids. There are parents out there who don't think it is useful anymore, or that it's a priority.”
Our Lady of the Ridge was given an opportunity by the archdiocese to raise over $250,000 and have an enrollment of at least 114 by the end of last February. The community came together, especially since it was announced that St. Louis de Montfort Elementary School in Oak Lawn was going to close.
Supporters of Our Lady of the Ridge were able to exceed those figures through an outpouring of support that led up to the fundraiser. However, some of those same supporters said it was difficult to sustain the fervor going into the school year.
Covert believes that a Catholic education is worth preserving. She adds that if Our Lady of the Ridge is going to close, that Incarnation would be able to provide for those students.
“It's important to keep the Catholic schools open,” Gilfillan said. “We will most likely have to find a new school for my son next year. He's in first grade so I've got a long way to go. I'm looking for a school with a sense of community, a strong sense of faith, and academics. We investigated Incarnation. We like it. It has a lot of similarities to Our Lady of The Ridge. I think it'd be a great fit for my son. I would like to see Incarnation continue.”
Regarding her participation at the Incarnation fundraiser, Gilfillan said a Catholic education is of the utmost importance.
“If I'm going to show up to the event, I'm going to donate, because that's what a committed Catholic adult does,” she added.
(Contributing to this story was Anthony Caciopo)