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Catholic Schools Merger Plan on Northwest Side Revealed

By Heather Cherone | November 10, 2014 1:51pm | Updated on November 10, 2014 2:12pm
  St. Cornelius   would be one of at least four but at as many as six schools consolidated  , under a plan revealed by its pastor, the Rev. Dan Fallon.
St. Cornelius  would be one of at least four but at as many as six schools consolidated , under a plan revealed by its pastor, the Rev. Dan Fallon.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — Several Catholic elementary and junior high schools on the Northwest Side would be consolidated into a regional school under a plan revealed this week by a Jefferson Park pastor, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

The Rev. Dan Fallon, pastor of St. Cornelius, told parishioners Sunday that the church's school would be one of at least four but as many as six schools consolidated into "one independent academic institution that is sustained by the students, faculties and staffs and finances of the parishes involved."

Fallon did not return a phone message Monday.

Thomas McGrath, chief operating officer for Catholic schools for the archdiocese, said the details of a regional consolidation plan for Northwest Side schools "has not yet been confirmed and would not be announced until school communities are fully informed."

On Oct. 29, the archdiocese announced it would shutter seven elementary schools and consolidate six more by the start of the 2015-16 school year in an effort to fill a deficit that reached $18 million this year.

The consolidation on the Northwest Side was not part of the October announcement.

St. Cornelius, 5252 N. Long Ave., was removed from the list of schools to be closed 24 hours before the announcement. The reprieve came after Fallon agreed to allow St. Cornelius to become one of the first schools to be consolidated in the Northwest Side plan, Fallon said.

"In truth, I believe that this is the only way Catholic education will continue to thrive in our archdiocese," Fallon said in his homily on Sunday. "It is long overdue. I feel honored that St. Cornelius was chosen to be one of the first schools to enter into this process."

St. Cornelius parishioners and community members avoided being closed by raising $245,000 in October to fill a deficit created by the school's declining enrollment and lagging fundraising.

Representatives of the Office of Catholic Schools began meeting with pastors of the other churches that will be consolidated with St. Cornelius last week, Fallon said.

St. Tarcisscus School in Gladstone Park is participating in the discussion with St. Cornelius about merging several schools on the Far Northwest Side, Father Mike Solazzo said Monday afternoon.

The identities of the schools merging with St. Cornelius aren't clear, but Our Lady of Victory School, 4434 N. Laramie Ave., which raised nearly $800,000 to avoid being closed last spring, is not among the schools to be consolidated into the regional school, said Principal Jennifer Hodge.

Meetings will be held in the coming weeks to allow archdiocesan officials to detail the plans and answer questions from parishioners, Fallon said.

It is unclear whether the regional Catholic school would operate on one campus or at several locations, Fallon said.

"The archdiocese seeks to establish a model that will effectively ensure quality Catholic education in our area of the city," Fallon wrote.

St. Cornelius' involvement in the consolidation is a "fact," Fallon wrote.

"The [Office of Catholic Schools] feels that we would be a fitting school to spearhead in this new approach to Catholic education in the archdiocese," Fallon wrote.

The archdiocese educates more than 82,000 Chicago area children in 240 elementary and high schools.

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