CHICAGO | St. Florian School in the Hegewisch neighborhood will stay open, according to parents and a letter from the Archdiocese of Chicago posted on the school’s website and Facebook page Friday night.
The Catholic school, which opened in 1907 and is the last Catholic school in Hegewisch, was slated for closure by the archdiocese. After an appeals process, supporters were given time to prove the school could become self-sustaining.
They have since met the benchmarks detailed by the Office of the Catholic Schools, the letter stated. The school increased tuition, increased its external scholarship support, increased governance oversight and support and did a three-year pledge drive.
The school’s 2014-15 academic year is positioned to operate without any assistance from the archdiocese, the letter said. The pledge drive has produced more than $82,000 in cash and checks, $43,000 in fiscal year 2015 pledges and $52,000 in annual pledges for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
“It is critical that the St. Florian School community continue to engage parishioners, families and alumni who have so powerfully stepped forward to assume ownership and accountability of the school’s future. This opportunity could not have happened without your vision, honesty and expertise, which resulted in a careful plan to ensure St. Florian will be there in service and mission, providing confidence in a strong academic and religious program,” reads the letter, signed by Sister M. Paul McCaughey, superintendent, and Thomas McGrath, associate superintendent of operations.
Kathy Fox, whose children, Joey and Janina Laskowiecki, attend St. Florian, said she is elated the school will stay open. Janina is in eighth grade and will attend Marian Catholic High School next year, and Joey is a seventh-grader who now will be able to graduate with the classmates he’s been in school with since preschool.
Even with the happy news, there is still a lot of work left to be done. Enrollment probably will be the huge push for next year, Fox said.
“I’d like to thank everyone who donated and participated. We couldn’t have done it without them,” Fox said.
Fundraising efforts will continue, including a special event from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday at Club 81 Too. The restaurant and lounge at 13157 S. Avenue M will donate a portion of its proceeds and selling raffle tickets for great prizes, Fox said.
“We’re very excited it’s staying open,” said Michael Dejanovich, whose five daughters have either attended or are currently attending St. Florian. This is the 21st consecutive school year they have had a student there, he said.
“It was scary when the archdiocese said they weren’t going to support us anymore,” he said. “Their bottom line is financial. ... If we could come up with a balanced budget, they would let us stay open."
His daughter Jennifer, a St. Florian seventh-grader, said, “When I heard the news I was extremely happy. Now I can graduate, and I don’t need to worry about what school I’m going to go to. Everything can almost go back to the way it was.”
Jennifer manages the Save St. Florian Facebook page, which she created when the news of the school’s possible closure first broke.
Jennifer’s sister Sarah Dejanovich, a 2005 St. Florian graduate, is the vice president of the Save St. Florian School committee. She said she was ecstatic to hear the news the school would remain open.
“I almost cried at work. ... I have been deeply ingrained in our efforts and have seen firsthand how amazing it has been,” she said.
“We’re going to keep the school going and increase support of the school. There are great people working with Florian to keep up our sustainable plan. ... We have a long way to go."