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St. Ben's To Phase Out High School As Enrollment Drops

By Patty Wetli | February 24, 2017 4:14pm | Updated on February 27, 2017 9:30am
 St. Ben's will phase out its high school over the next two years.
St. Ben's will phase out its high school over the next two years.
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NORTH CENTER — St. Benedict Preparatory School announced Friday that it is phasing out its high school program and will not accept freshmen for the 2017-18 school year.

The move was reviewed by the Archdiocesan School Board and the Office of Catholic Schools and approved by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

St. Ben's, 3900 N. Leavitt St., will continue to educate youngsters from preschool through eighth grade. The high school opened in 1950, according to parish history.

The school currently enrolls 761 students pre-k through eighth grade, but only 103 high school students. Only 12 students took the school's entrance exam in January, according to a statement from the Archdiocese.

In 2016, 100 percent of St. Ben's graduating eighth-graders enrolled elsewhere, including both public and private college prep high schools, according to a statement from the school.

“This has been very difficult decision,” St. Benedict Head of School Rachel Gemo said in a statement. “We are overwhelmingly proud of the high school education mission that we have provided and will continue that passion as we focus on early childhood through grade eight.”

For the 2017-18 school year, St. Ben's 11 "rising" sophomores (current freshmen) will transfer to other schools. St. Ben's has put a team together to help these students transition, according to a notice posted to the school's website.

Only "rising" juniors and seniors will remain, allowing the approximately 60 upperclassmen to graduate from St. Ben's. The high school will officially close at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

The parish has been evaluating its education mission over the past eight months and came to the conclusion that operating the high school was no longer financially sustainable "due to market trends, demographic shifts and declining enrollment," according to the school's statement.

The decision is final, parish and school officials said.