OLV receives news it could close June 30
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Archdiocese of Chicago has told officials at Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., that they must demonstrate that they can raise $400,000 in each of the next 3 years in order to avoid the having the school close on June 30 after more than a century of operation.
Our Lady of Victory principal Jennifer Hodge said that archdiocese superintendent Sister Mary Paul McCaughey called a meeting with school officials and parents on Jan. 8 and told them that the archdiocese is closing six schools because they are 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 principal 1 1/2 years ago. The school’s enrollment peaked at about 1,300 students several decades ago.
Hodge said the school has a substantial deficit. "It’s not just about raising the money, but about different methods like raising tuition, grants and increasing enrollment," she said.
OLV director of religious education Mary Beth Frystak said that the school’s budget is about $1.1 million.
Frystak said that she thinks that archdiocese is counting on the school to close. "They are trying to make it impossible," she said. "There is too much history here to give this up. 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 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 larger church was built on top of the original church, creating what are referred to as the upper church and the lower church.
The archdiocese also has announced that it plans to close Academy of Saint Benedict the African School, 6020 S Laflin St., Saint Florian School, 13110 S. Baltimore Ave., Saint Christopher School in Midlothian, St. Bernadette School in Evergreen Park and Santa Maria del Popolo School in 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 will 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, it’s about the families, the teachers and staff that give their heart and soul to this place each day," Frystak said in a letter. "You can’t take away enthusiasm, history or memories. We want to make many more memories here for generations to come."
Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that he was saddened to hear about the possibility of the school closing.
"It’s a dagger to my heart," Cullerton said. Five generations of my family have been involved in this parish. The school has been on the turn-around, and they have increased the quality of its education. It’s a shame."
"It’s a real blow to the community," Cullerton said. "If the school was going down I would understand, but this doesn’t make any sense. The lack of sensitivity from the archdiocese is ridiculous."