It's time to welcome back St. Florian's to Chicago. Originally, its school was one of six Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago that were slated to close in the fall. As of this week, it's become the third school to be granted a reprieve. It will welcome new students in Fall 2014, and remain open for the foreseeable future.
St. Florian School is a familiar site to Chicagoans in the Portage Park neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The school, located at 13110 S. Baltimore Ave., organized a pledge drive once they learned that the Archdiocese planned to shut them down. The results of the pledge drive were enormously successful, and the school netted $750,000 in cash and checks for the 2014-2015 school year, with an additional $95,000 pledged for the next two subsequent school years. This included including $80,000 from an anonymous donor. Thanks to a combination of tuition increases, greater outside support and increased oversight and governance, the school is now safely on budget and here to stay.
St. Florian follows Our Lady of Victory on Chicago's northwest side and St. Christopher in southwest suburban Midlothian, as schools that reversed their fates after being selected for closure back in January. Last week, the Archdiocese told St. Florian's that it could host its annual open house and begin registration for the next school year, thanks to "fantastic fund-raising in such a short amount of time", said Mary Beth Frystak, the church's director of religious education. Principal Jennifer Hodge then sent an email to parents of the current student body, informing them of the good news. "We have received the green light to continue to plan for our future" she announced in the email.
The surprising turn around for St. Christopher, Our Lady of Victory, and now St. Florian's shows that even an apparent death sentence for a Catholic school that is under-performing need not be a permanent decision. Let this be a wake up call to other Catholic schools around the Chicago area that have been lagging behind in recent years. It's never too late to breathe life back into a Catholic community. Best wishes to St. Florian's!