St. Cornelius School earns national recognition


The selection of Saint Cornelius School as one of the "Blue Ribbon" top-performing schools in the nation is "bittersweet" because the school is in its last year of operation.

"Is this bittersweet? Absolutely," principal Kristina Reyes said. "It’s a wonderful accomplishment for our school and recognizes all of our community. We’re going to build upon this in the new school."

Saint Cornelius is one of four Northwest Side parochial schools that will consolidate next school year due to low enrollment, and its school building at 5252 N. Long Ave. will not be one of the two campuses for the new regional school.

The other three schools being consolidated are Our Lady of Victory, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., Saint Pascal, 6143 W. Irving Park Road, and Saint Tarcissus. 6040 W. Ardmore Ave. The host campuses for the regional school will be Saint Pascal and Saint Tarcissus, which will offer pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at each location.

Since 1982 the U.S. Department of Education has recognized about 7,000 public and private schools as part of its National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Saint Cornelius was awarded the program’s "exemplary high performing" rating, and it was the only Northwest Side school to receive the honor this year.

Reyes said that the instructional strategies used by teachers at Saint Cornelius are the reason for its academic success, which includes standardized test scores in the 90th percentile. "Teachers adjust to the diverse needs of individual students by modifying assignments in order to challenge at every level, while still meeting instructional goals," she said.

Reyes said that the school’s success also stems from adherence to its "three pillars: nurturing spirits, empowering minds and strengthening community." The pillars are listed in the school’s mission statement.

"A Saint Cornelius community hallmark is its keen ability to foster and promote mutual care and respect," the school stated in its application for the "Blue Ribbon" award. "The ‘Buddy Program’ pairs older students with younger students for classroom activities, religious formation and practical field experiences. This program strengthens leadership skills in older students and establishes trusted mentor relationships for young students."

Enrollment at Saint Cornelius is 135 students, down from 177 last school year. News that the school was expected to close as part of the consolidation plan came out about a year ago, and school officials later issued a statement ensuring parents that the school would remain open for the 2015-16 school year no matter how much enrollment declined.

Under the consolidation plan, Saint Cornelius students will have the option of enrolling at either regional campus next fall, as the two campuses will be organized as one school, Reyes said. A name for the regional school is expected to be announced later this year.

Saint Cornelius opened on Dec. 6, 1926, with an enrollment of 100 students, who were taught by three Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the school’s Web site. "Next year would have been our 90th," Reyes said.