St. Tarcissus joins school consolidation plan
by BRIAN NADIG
The Archdiocese of Chicago’s consolidation plan for the Northwest Side will include four schools, while two of the six parishes invited to join the merger plan opted to keep their school independent.
The last school to join the regional plan was Saint Tarcissus School. A parish vote taken Feb. 19 was overwhelmingly in favor of the school joining the merger plan, according to a school council member at Saint Tarcissus.
Saint Cornelius, Saint Pascal and Our Lady of Victory schools also have joined the consolidation plan, while Saint Thecla and Saint Constance schools decided to continue operating on their own. Those schools which opted out of the merger plan no longer will be eligible for financial aid, including scholarship funds, from the archdiocese.
Archdiocese officials have said that at least two campuses of those schools agreeing to consolidate must close for the regional plan to be feasible and that the newly constituted schools under the plan will be renamed. Each of the four schools in the regional plan is expected to remain open for the 2015-16 school year, as the consolidation will start in the fall of 2016.
The schools that joined the regional plan had to do so without knowing which of their school buildings will remain open. An advisory panel consisting of representatives of each school is being asked to make facility and curriculum decisions, and the archdiocese will serve as the arbitrator when panel members cannot come to a consensus.
“I believe the hardest part of embracing the regional plan for quality Catholic education will be to let go of previous conceptions about this important part of our experience of church, and re-imagine what Catholic education is to be in the future,” Saint Cornelius pastor the Reverend Dan Fallon said in a letter to his parish.
Of the six parishes invited to join the consolidation plan, only one of them has an enrollment greater that the “230 benchmark which the OCS (Office of Catholic Schools) considers necessary for a viable school,” Fallon wrote.
The archdiocese is looking for a regional school to have two classrooms per grade.
A parent of one of the parishes which joined the regional plan said that a significant number of families in her parish are keeping their options open and that some students at her school have taken admissions tests for a magnet or gifted program in the Chicago Public Schools. The parent said that based on other consolidation projects involving parochial schools, up to one third of the affected students could transfer to a public school.
A statement released by Saint Thecla states, “After much reflection and prayer we decided to continue growing and developing our school as it has always been known, ‘a neighborhood parish school.’ This is consistent with Saint Thecla’s rich history, and we remain committed to provide the best faith-based education for our children.”
Archdiocese officials have said that those schools which opt out of the regional plan will be shut down if they run a deficit. Saint Thecla has not been receiving financial aid from the Archdiocese, but a portion of the parish’s general fund is used for school expenditures.