‘St. Bart’s Bash’ on June 24 to raise funds for student scholarships as St. Bartholomew School closes doors to merge with Pope Francis Academy
by BRIAN NADIG
“Character is what you are when you think no one is looking.”
1970 Saint Bartholomew School graduate Nina Grenke-Kosinski said those words were taught to her by one of the Dominican Sisters at the Northwest Side elementary school at 4941W. Patterson Ave., which is closing its doors after 102 years and merging with Pope Francis Global Academy, 6143 W. Irving Park Road.
Hundreds of Saint Bartholomew alumni are expected to attend a “Bart’s Bash” from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at the school. A Mass and an open house of the school building will also be held before the event.
Like many parish schools, Saint Bartholomew was well known for its “legacy” families.
“My dad’s family went there, his kids went there and my son went there … 13 total,” Grenke-Kosinski said.
Saint Bartholomew will be remembered more as “a community” than just a school, Grenke-Kosinski said.
“Besides academic excellence, it taught us to be respectful and our actions have consequences,” she said. “Once a Crusader, always a Crusader. That’s very true.”
Saint Bartholomew principal Nilma Osiecki aid that her 4 years at the school have been a learning experience, witnessing “the love and commitment” which students, parents and alumni have for the school and the lifelong friendships formed through the school. She will be the principal of Pope Francis Academy,
“These bonds are genuine and close. “(They) identify themselves as a Crusader,” said Osiecki, who spent 26 years in the public schools as a teacher and administrator before coming to Saint Bart’s. “It’s been an honor for me to see that. … I’ve never experienced that (commitment) to this deep level.”
“The building is closing, (but) the best of both” Saint Bartholomew and Pope Francis will carry on in the merged school, which will be housed on the Pope Francis campus, Osiecki said.
Initially news of the closing was met with “pain and fear and loss, (and) at the end of the day it’s about finances,” she said of the merger decision made by the Archdiocese of Chicago. The school was making strides in increasing enrollment, but the first half of the pandemic was challenging, she added.
Saint Bartholomew’s enrollment was at 134 this past school year, including about 20 recent graduates. So far 46 of those students will be attending Pope Francis, which Osiecki said represents a higher percentage than typically moves on to a new campus after a closing.
“For any school that goes through a merger, it’s not easy,” she said. “We respect everyone’s plans.”
Total enrollment at Pope Francis this fall is expected to be close to 200, up about 30 from this past school year. Currently it’s at 175, but registration has not ended.
Some of the proceeds from “Bart’s Bash” will go toward scholarships for Saint Bartholomew students who register at Pope Francis, said Saint Bartholomew director of marketing and development Michael Giordano, a 1991 St. Bart’s graduate.
So far $17,000 has been raised for the event, and additional funds will be raised through silent auctions and other opportunities at the event, where many of the school’s trophies and banners will be sold.
After expenses for the bash are paid, leftover funds will be set aside for scholarships, Giordano said.
About 500 people have registered for the bash. “This event has taken a life of its own,” Giordano said.
Admittance to the bash is free, but those planning to attend are asked to register via a link on the school’s Facebook page. The event will include food, bounce houses and music provided by a deejay.
In 2021 the Saint Bartholomew Parish merged with Our Lady of Victory and Saint Pascal to form Our Lady of the Rosary Parish.
The current Pope Francis academy principal, Eli Argamaso, is becoming the principal of Saint Robert Bellarmine School, 6036 W. Eastwood Ave.
Giordano provided the following summer of the school’s history:
Ground was broken in the spring of 1920 at 4930 W. Addison St. for a combination school and church. The cornerstone was laid May 15, 1920, and the first Mass was celebrated on December 25, 1920, Christmas Day. This building was later known as the Intermediate Building or Parish Center. The church was located in the basement. Four classrooms were located on the first floor. The second floor contained living quarters for the teaching nuns. Saint Bartholomew School officially opened on September 6, 2021, with 180 students and four teachers. The original faculty consisted of Sr. Sienna, Sr. John Dominic, Sr. Leonarda, and Sr. Angelita. All four were Dominican nuns from the state of Kentucky.
In 1924, the nuns took up residence in the temporary convent which was the two-flat building located at 4907 W. Addison St. This enabled the school to expand to eight classrooms.
Saint Bartholomew School expanded again in 1926 by building out toward the alley. This allowed for the creation of four additional classrooms.
Father Morrison purchased property [containing a brick bungalow] immediately east of the school in 1927. In addition to this piece of property, the parish also acquired three vacant lots east of this brick bungalow as well as another two flat building. A portable school building was built on these vacant pieces of property while the two flat building was converted into classroom use. Saint Bartholomew School was now 4 times its original size.
In 1943, yet another two-flat building (located at 4908 W. Addison St.) was purchased. This building provided accommodations for a kindergarten and a second-grade classroom. For the next 22 years, this building housed primary school children.
Buildings between the original school building and the building located at 4908 W. Addison St. were razed in 1952, and construction began on a super modern school building called the Primary School (Building). This building contained 13 classrooms with a meeting hall and a kitchen (Krueger Hall).
Property on the south side of Patterson Avenue was purchased between the rectory and the convent in 1964. The houses located on this property were all demolished and work began on a new school building for St. Barts School – the Junior High Building. The Junior High Building was ready for students in 1965. This ultra-modern building showcased 16 classrooms, a science lab, a library and a collegiate sized gymnasium with locker rooms. Additionally, it housed offices and conference rooms. Most impressively, it was fully air-conditioned with closed-circuit television in each classroom.