OLV School in Jefferson Park faces closing due to funding problems


The Archdiocese of Chicago has told Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., that it must demonstrate that it can raise $400,000 in each of the next 3 years in order to avoid the school’s closing on June 30.

School principal Jennifer Hodge said that archdiocese superintendent Mary Paul McCaughey called a meeting with officials and parents on Jan. 8 and told them that the archdiocese was closing six schools because they were about $10 million in debt.

“We are not going to continue to receive funding from the archdiocese, but we are creating a plan to be self-sufficient through the help of scholarships and other forms of funds,” Hodge said.

Hodge said that the school’s enrollment is 170 students and that about 80 students have enrolled since she became the school’s principal 1 1/2 years ago. Several decades ago the school’s enrollment peaked at about 1,300 students.

“It’s not just about raising the money, but about different methods like raising tuition, grants and increasing enrollment,” Hodge said.

OLV director of religious education Mary Beth Frystak said that the school’s budget was about $1.1 million.

“We have a substantial deficit,” Hodge said.

But Frystak said that she thinks that archdiocese is counting on the school to close.

“They are trying to make it impossible. There is too much history here to give this up,” Frystak said. “As much as she (McCaughey) says it’s over, it is not.”

Our Lady of Victory Parish was founded in 1906, and it has played a significant role in educating and providing spiritual guidance to countless Northwest Side residents.

The main school building on the campus was built in 1911, and it featured a multi-purpose hall which hosted religious services until the parish’s fist church was constructed in the late 1920s. In the 1950s, a second, larger, church was built on top of the first, creating what are referred to as the upper church and the lower church.

Since the news about OLV broke Thursday, the archdiocese has announced that the other schools which it planned to close include the Academy of the Saint Benedict The African School, 6020 S. Laflin St., Saint Christopher School, 14611 S. Keeler Ave., Midlothian, and Santa Maria del Popolo School, 126 N. Lake St., Mundelein.

“Our enrollment has gone up substantially since we got a new principal,” Frystak said. “It was like we were at a wake. People were in shock. People walked out of the meeting.
“They handed the parents folders with information about where they could send their kids. I think they want to see us fail.”

Frystak said that the building would remain empty if the school closes and that up to 30 people would lose their jobs.

“It’s not always about the bricks or construction of a building, but its about the families, the teacher and staff that give their heart and soul to this place each day. You can’t take away enthusiasm, history or memories. We want to make many more memories here for generations to come,” Frystak said in a letter.

Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that he was saddened to hear the news about the possibility of the school’s closing.