Archdiocese grants St. Edmund School reprieve

? Partnership with Dominican University key, as are plans to eliminate debt.

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By DREW CARTER

St. Edmund School learned last week that its efforts were successful in reversing a February Archdiocese of Chicago decision to close the school in June.

Church bells rang announcing the good news, which was timed just before Easter so the school would not have to leave its staff and parents in limbo over the week of spring break.

"It's been a great infusion of energy in the parish and the community," said Rev. John McGivern, pastor at St. Edmund, adding that mass attendance and weekly giving are up.

Archdiocese schools Supt. Nicholas Wolsonovich said the leadership at St. Edmund?#34;McGivern and Principal Sister Collette Mary White, both new to the parish last year?#34;were a pivotal part of the overturned decision.

"We feel they put together a plan that had a good chance of coming true," Wolsonovich said.

That means in the short-term raising money to cover the school's $190,000 debt, along with securing an enrollment of 170 students for the fall.

McGivern is positive St. Edmund can do both. A parish fundraiser on April 23 is expected to take care of about one-fourth of the school debt, and in the fall the parish will kick-off a capital campaign to tackle the parish's total debt of about $1 million.

The school has 150 students registered for the fall today, so finding another 20 before fall is "very realistic," McGivern said, adding that six more students enrolled after the news that the school would remain open.

"There've been a lot of people on the fence," McGivern said.

St. Edmund has picked up new students from St. Mary of Celle School in Berwyn, which was one of the 23 school identified by the archdiocese to close, and from students leaving public schools or moving into the area.

Of the 23 schools tapped for closure, 10 asked for reconsideration. Along with St. Edmund, Epiphany School, 4223 W. 25th St., will stay open, thanks to a couple of large donations, including one in excess of $100,000, Wolsonovich said. Mater Chrisi School in North Riverside will close. No final decisions for the remaining seven schools have been rendered.

Dominican partnership was key

Central to the comeback was a Dominican University-driven proposed partnership that could turn St. Edmund into a lab school for the university's School of Education, giving its faculty and students the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of running a Catholic school, Dominican President Donna Carroll told WEDNESDAY JOURNAL earlier this month.

The partnership makes sense between two schools in the same community with similar missions. And it didn't hurt that the school's principal is from the Sinsinawa Dominican order, the same that supports the university, Carroll said.

Carroll thinks the partnership could become a model for Catholic schools. But Wolsonovich disagrees, saying there aren't enough Catholic universities to partner with the archdiocese's 215 elementary schools. No other Chicagoland Catholic universities have come forward with partnership proposals.

School has one year, for now

The reversal of the decision to close St. Edmund is not a guarantee to remain open long into the future.

"Every year schools have to be ready to prove that they are self-sustaining," Wolsonovich said. "What [St. Edmund leaders] say they're going to do, they have to do."

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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