JEFFERSON PARK — Parents, teachers and church officials at St. Cornelius said Thursday they were grateful and relieved their school won't be among the six schools that will close their doors for good at the end of the school year.
"We're still digesting the news," said the Rev. Dan Fallon, the pastor of the church. "But there is a lot of relief."
After the Archdiocese of Chicago said it could no longer give the school $250,000 a year to cover a deficit created by the school's declining enrollment and lagging fundraising, St. Cornelius raised $245,000 in less than four weeks this fall in an effort to avoid being closed.
Heather Cherone says it's not clear why the school was spared:
But Fallon said he was not sure if the successful fundraising campaign was what spared St. Cornelius, 5252 N. Long Ave.
"I'm unclear on what role it played," Fallon said, adding that he was pleased with the campaign's success.
Thomas McGrath, chief operating officer for Catholic schools for the Archdiocese, declined to say why St. Cornelius, which has 177 students this year — 20 fewer than a year ago — was left off the list of schools to be closed.
No additional schools are expected to be closed before the start of the 2015-16 school year, McGrath said.
The uncertainty around St. Cornelius' fate — and the waiting for an announcement from Archdiocese officials — was difficult, Fallon said.
"It was starting to weigh on everyone's nerves," Fallon said.
Jane Deitrich said she was especially relieved to hear St. Cornelius would be open for at least one more year after transferring her two oldest children from Beaubien Elementary School to St. Cornelius after being pleased with her youngest daughter's experience in the pre-school program.
"No one wants to transfer their kids to new schools twice in two years," said Deitrich, a Jefferson Park resident.
Her son, who is now in third grade, struggled at Beaubien but is now thriving at St. Cornelius, Deitrich said.
The smaller class sizes at St. Cornelius have made a real difference in her son's attitude toward learning, Deitrich said. His second grade class had 34 students, she added.
"He no longer pretends to be sick to try to get out of going to school," Deitrich said. "He seems a lot calmer and less stressed out."
Deitrich helped organize the fundraising campaign and said she and her husband "dug deep" to make the biggest possible financial contribution.
"It's a really special community," Deitrich said.
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