CHICAGO - The Archdiocese of Chicago plans to close five Catholic schools in the city and suburbs. At least 600 students and their families will have to find new schools after June 30, 2018.
The five schools that will be closing at the end of the 2017-2018 school year are:
-St. Cyprian School in northwest suburban River Grove
-Holy Cross School in north suburban Deerfield
-Incarnation Elementary School in southwest suburban Palos Heights
-Our Lady of the Ridge Catholic School in southwest suburban Chicago Ridge
-St. Michael the Archangel School in the city's South Chicago neighborhood
One of the big problems is enrollment. Each of the schools had fewer than 150 students. St. Michael's, located in the 8200-block of South Shore Drive, had just 80 students enrolled this year.
The archdiocese said money was the other issue. Most of the closing schools were unable to fund operating deficits. At least three of the schools were given enrollment and fundraising targets that they were required to hit by Jan. 15. But they did not meet those goals.
The decision to close the schools at the end of the school year was shared with families on Wednesday. Many parents and students at St. Michael were heartbroken when they heard the news. It's a historic school with generations of graduates in this community.
"Of course they are sad, because they have built friendships here and it's hard to move to a school where you don't know anybody," said Mari Lord, a parent.
"It really hurts to hear that they're closing because that was one of the schools that we never expected to close," said Gabrielle Joseph, another parent.
Alexis Ramirez, another St. Michael parent, said each and every student has been treated like family.
"They're really good with the community, staff like that. It's real. It's real family, you know?" Ramirez said.
Three generations of her family have gone to this school. So did all of Miguel Morales' kids. His youngest is in seventh grade.
"We were hoping he was going to graduate. But unfortunately, it's not going to happen," Morales said.
In a statement, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Jim Rigg said he commended the leaders, faculty and staff of the five schools "for their tireless work to foster academically rigorous and faith-filled communities."
The Archdiocese of Chicago currently has 214 schools, making it one of the largest private school systems in the United States. Officials said the archdiocese is dedicated to transitioning students and staff to new schools within the system. But many parents said they're now facing a big decision.
"I'm actually going to be applying for scholarships for him to put him in another Catholic school. Then if push comes to shove, I'm just going to have to find a good public school to put him in," Joseph said.