CHICAGO | Parents and supporters of St. Florian Catholic School gathered Tuesday to review a plan to raise an extra $200,000 in the next three years to keep the school open beyond this academic year.
That plan will be presented to Chicago Archdiocese officials who will meet Wednesday to meet with representatives of the Hegewisch school.
Archdiocese officials have said six schools across the area will be closed due to financial struggles, and St. Florian officials said last week they were told they were among them.
Roughly 130 parents who gathered at Steve’s Lounge just down the block from the school were not willing to accept that outcome.
Van Bensett, a member of the St. Florian School Board, said in the past two days the group has received $15,000 in pledges, and has come up with a plan that could produce about $200,000 per year. He said that is the amount — about $2,000 per student — the Archdiocese said they had been subsidizing St. Florian in recent years.
Part of that plan calls for seeking charitable contributions from businesses such as Walmart, Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby, while another part involves asking parents to accept a tuition increase of $100 per month.
Group members said they were told by 10th Ward Alderman John Pope he would contribute $1,000, although Pope was not present for Tuesday’s meeting. The meeting was meant to be a prep session for the meeting today between school board members and Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of the archdiocese schools.
Several parents plan to rally at the school while the meeting takes place.
Ernestine Avila, president of the St. Florian parents club, said parents were realistic about the chances of success.
“If (McCaughey) is going to knock us down and say ‘you’re dead,’ then why bother?” she said.
Officials said any pledges should be paid directly to the school, rather than to the parents’ group itself.
Bensett said that will make it easier in the event that contributions must be returned if the group is unable to come up with enough money.
“We will return the money, if we’re told ‘no,’” he said.
Other fundraising measures include special hand-painted glasses that will be sold at neighborhood taverns and stores for $25 each, along with a pancake breakfast scheduled Jan. 26 at the school.
Bensett said the point of this effort, which will have to be completed within two weeks to satisfy the Archdiocese, is parents want to keep their kids in the Hegewisch neighborhood rather than transfer them to a nearby Catholic school.
The East Side-based Annunciata Elementary School is having an open house Jan. 23 for any parents interested in transferring their children to that school.
“This could be a long-shot,” he said. “But we need a plan if we’re going to try to keep our school open.”