Archdiocese gives OLV reprieve on closing plan
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Archdiocese of Chicago has allowed Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., to open registration for the 2014-15 school year and keep the school open during "Catholic Schools Week," but it will conduct a review of the school’s sustainability efforts and progress by March 1 to ensure that it is meeting its goals.
One of the criteria for staying open was that the school had to demonstrate that it could raise $400,000 in each of the next 3 years in order to avoid closing in June after more than a century of operation.
Since news broke on Jan. 8 that the archdiocese planned to close six schools because they are about $10 million in debt, members of Our Lady of Victory Parish have gotten pledges of more than $800,000 over the next 3 years, according to school principal Jennifer Hodge. The school’s budget is about $1.1 million.
Hodge said that the keys to staying open are continuing to increase enrollment and raising funds. "Ideally I would like to hit that number or even surpass it because of the momentum that we have built here in the past few weeks," she said.
Hodge said that her goal for next year is to have an enrollment of 175 students. "The archdiocese wants to make sure that we are following through with our promises, but we definitely have their support," she said. "They don’t want to see us fail either. I’m not worried."
The archdiocese also had announced 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, Saint Bernadette School in Evergreen Park and Santa Maria del Popolo School in Mundelein.
Archdiocese superintendent Sister Mary Paul McCaughey said in a statement that representatives of Our Lady of Victory and Saint Christopher presented plans on Jan. 24 for the long-range viability of the schools. In addition, Saint Florian School has been given additional time to complete plans for sustainability because it entered the appeal process later than the other schools, McCaughey said.
"These plans, born of prayer, expertise, hard work and the generosity of the Catholic community, provide the confidence needed to allow registration for the coming school year," McCaughey said. "These plans, however, have very specific benchmarks that are understood by the schools’ leadership teams."
"(Our Lady of Victory’s) plan, subject to continued enrollment and the funding of scholarships, gives us and the OLV staff the confidence to open students enrollment for the 2014-2015 school years," McCaughey said. "OLV leadership will be diligently working with the mutually agreed internal metrics, and Cardinal George will review the progress against these benchmarks on March 1."
Hodge said that the school’s enrollment is 171 students, which is an increase of about 80 students since she became the principal 1 1/2 years ago. The school’s enrollment peaked at about 1,300 students several decades ago.
"We need to continue to raise funds, enroll students, and the archdiocese will be checking in with our progress in or around March 1," Hodge said in an e-mail. "Thus far we have raised over $800,000, which is remarkable. There is still money that has to be raised, but we are so grateful for the tremendous amount of support which has been shown by our OLV family."
"This consists of our own families, parishioners, alumni and the community," Hodge said. "Seeing and receiving this amount of support and knowing that these people are committed to OLV, I believe we will continue to be a staple in the Jefferson Park community for years to come. I asked them to have faith in me and they did!"
Our Lady of Victory Parish was founded in 1906, and the main school building was built in 1911.
Community concern was evident at a meeting on Jan. 10 where more than 300 parish members and residents packed the school hall to hear officials discuss what plan they needed to present to the archdiocese that proved that the parish school would be self-sufficient in the future to avoid closing at the end of the school year.
Hodge said that a self-sustaining school usually has about 200 to 250 students. The current average tuition at the school for children in kindergarten through eighth grade is $5,010 per year.
Fund-raising events will be held through Feb. 2 at the Superdawg Restaurant, 6336 N. Milwaukee Ave. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of customers’ tabs to the school.
The OLV Holy Name Society will hold a Super Bowl party at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, at the school. The cost is $25 a dinner and refreshments.
Hodge said that pledges can be made online at www.olvchicago.org.