CHICAGO | The school maintained by the St. Florian Parish for more than a century will be among the half-dozen schools that will be closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago for financial reasons.
Faculty, staff and parents of students at St. Florian School, 13110 S. Baltimore Ave., were told this week the school will be closed when the current academic year ends June 12.
St. Florian Principal Krista Wilkinson said the school currently has 108 students, significantly lower than the 225-student standard Archdiocese of Chicago officials believe a school needs in order to be economically viable.
Parents were officially notified at a Thursday night meeting at the school, and Wilkinson said the reaction was a mixture of shock and frustration, although she said of the parents, “Some of them could see it coming.”
Archdiocese officials have said they are forced to cut the amount of money they provide for schools, and that six schools across Cook County and north suburban Lake County will close unless they can find alternate sources of funding. Officials on Friday would not confirm that St. Florian was among the six schools to be closed, saying they wanted to wait until officials at all the schools were formally notified.
Catholic Schools Superintendent M. Paul McCaughey wrote in a letter to St. Florian officials, “With the parish’s inability to significantly contribute to the school and the continued loss of enrollment … driving further losses even deeper, keeping the school open another year is not fiscally prudent.” The school made the letter available on its website.
The Archdiocese of Chicago will provide some assistance to those parents who want to keep their children in the Catholic school system — students who finish the current school year in good standing will receive a $1,000 credit toward tuition at any archdiocese school they transfer to.
Wilkinson said she has heard many parents saying they will try to transfer their children to the Annunciata School at 3750 E. 112th St. in the East Side neighborhood. She expects other students to try to transfer to Sacred Heart School, 2926 E. 96th St., and Our Lady of Guadalupe School, 9050 S. Burley Ave., both in the South Chicago neighborhood. Or to as St. Ann School, 3041 Ridge Road in Lansing, or Christ Our Savior School, 900 E. 154th St. in South Holland.
She also said she has heard some parents talk of transferring their children to Catholic schools in Hammond. But since the Indiana community is in the Catholic Diocese of Gary, rather than the Archdiocese of Chicago, those students would not receive the $1,000 credit.
JoAnne Kijewski, of Lansing, who taught kindergarten at St. Florian for 25 years until her retirement two years ago, said she has heard from several people upset about the school closing.
“It’s understandable because that’s their school; it becomes like your home,” she said. “I loved teaching there. It was an excellent school that benefited its neighborhood.”
Officials with the Archdiocese of Chicago will visit the Hegewisch neighborhood school within the next week to negotiate specifics of how the school closing will take place.
Wilkinson said current faculty and staff will be put on a list giving them priority for jobs in other Chicago-area Catholic schools.
She also said some of the teachers at St. Florian have been through the process before, although it doesn’t provide them with any comfort.
“I think it takes a little bit out of you every time you go through a school closing for good,” Wilkinson said.