Notre Dame for Girls to close July 1






by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI

Notre Dame High School for Girls, which was founded in 1938, will close on July 1 due to financial difficulties and a steadily declining enrollment, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The school, which has been operating on the third floor of Saint Ferdinand School, 3131 N. Mason Ave., had a projected enrollment of 31 students for next year, a significant drop from a few years ago.

Saint Ferdinand pastor the Reverend Zdzislaw Jason Torba and the high school advisory board recommended to the archdiocese that the school not reopen in the fall after a review of its finances and enrollment figures.

The archdiocese and the archdiocesan school board endorsed the recommendation, and Archbishop Blase Cupich "saw no reason not to accept this recommendation," according to a press release.

The archdiocese also said that the Saint Florian School, 13110 S. Baltimore Ave., will close on June 30. The school had an enrollment of 49 students for next year.

"Any time you close a school it is a sad state of affairs," Notre Dame interim principal Tom Trengove said. "We’ve had thousands of successful people graduate from the high school since it opened in the 1930s, and many alumni have called and expressed their sorrow and offered their sympathies when they found out that we would be closing."

Trengove became the school’s interim principal after former principal Irene Heidelbauer stepped down to spend time with her family and relatives after her mother, Saint Ferdinand principal Doctor Lucine Mastalerz, died at the age of on May 20, according to the archdiocese.

Trengove said that the school’s declining enrollment is the main reason for the closing. "It’s tough out there for single-gender school these days," he said.

Trengove said that Saint Ferdinand has an enrollment of 270 students, but he expects that to increase to about 300 students in the fall. He said that Saint Ferdinand likely will use the third floor for its school when the high school leaves. He said that other Catholic schools have reached out to the families of the students who will be affected by the move.

"The Archdiocese of Chicago remains committed to providing strong Catholic schools throughout Cook and Lake Counties," the archdiocese said in a statement. "The archdiocese commends the dedicated leaders, faculty and staff at Saint Florian and Notre Dame High School for Girls for their tireless work to instill a rich Catholic identity into academically excellent communities.

"The Archdiocese is working with affected families to find alternative ways for their children to continue their Catholic education. Please join the archdiocese in praying for the Saint Florian School and Notre Dame High School for Girls communities."

Notre Dame High School for Girls moved to a vacant floor at Saint Ferdinand in 2009 after 70 years at 3000 N. Mango Ave.

Notre Dame was founded in 1938, and its peak enrollment was about 1,475 students in 1970. Saint Ferdinand had an enrollment of 280 students in 2008.

In 2008 the Ohio Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the sponsors of the high school, announced plans to move the school to Saint Ferdinand, citing the high cost of operating the Mango Avenue building for an enrollment of 231 students.

The religious order transferred ownership and operational responsibilities of the high school building to the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Saint Ferdinand Parish sponsored its school and Notre Dame High School.

"We are pleased that the leadership from Notre Dame High School for Girls and the parish community of Saint Ferdinand joined forces to bring about this creative and workable plan," said the late Cardinal Francis George said in a press release at the time. "Keeping our Catholic schools strong and vital provides the best opportunity to pass on our faith to our children and young people."

The Chicago Public Schools purchased the former high school building from the Sisters of Notre Dame for $8.735 million in 2009 to convert it into Camras School. The school was renovated in 2010 for $6 million.

The Camras School attendance area was created from portions of the attendance areas of Reinberg School, 3425 N. Major Ave., Lyon School, 2941 N. McVicker Ave., and Schubert School, 2727 N. Long Ave.

The renovation project involved the demolition of the convent on the site to make way for a new parking lot for 30 cars, construction of a parking lot and a playground, accessibility upgrades including elevators, interior renovations, kitchen renovation, additions of fire alarms, security, phone and computer networking systems, code-required modifications and other work.

The late Marvin Camras was a Chicago-born inventor who invented magnetic tape recording, which eventually led to electronic and digital media, including audio and videocassettes, floppy disks and credit card magnetic strips, according to the Illinois Institute of Technology. Camras, who died in 1995 at the age of 79, had more than 500 patents, and he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985, according to IIT, where he received two degrees and taught for 50 years.

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