‘Sad, very sad’: Suburban Catholic community reflects on elementary school closings

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Four closing, two merging at the end of the academic school year

Students at several Catholic schools in the south suburbs are preparing to walk out of their classrooms for the final time after the Archdiocese of Chicago set plans to close elementary schools earlier this year.

The decision was made in January to close Christ Savior School in South Holland, St. Ann School in Lansing, St. Joseph in Summit and Sacred Heart in Melrose Park at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. The announcement prompted raw emotions from students, parents and staff from schools that are closing for good, as part of the Archdiocese’s ‘Renew My Church’ initiative.

On Wednesday, students exited St. Joseph’s school in Summit, greeted by friends, family and staff with flowers, hugs and a lot of tears.

“Sad, very sad,” said Maria Espinoza, a St. Joseph parent. “It’s too bad because this is a great school.”

Alisi De La Cruz, a first-grader agrees.

“I miss my teacher and I love my teacher and I want to live in this school forever,” she said.

St. Ann Parish Communications Director Jennifer Gray says the closing is “one of the hardest things,” she has gone through. Gray graduated from St. Ann, as did her four children. Just last week, one her daughters graduated from the school.

Uncertain times ahead for south suburban families facing closure of several Catholic elementary schools

“We turn out kids who are mission-driven who live out their faith every day, and I feel like there’s going to be a big gaping hole with that missing from here,” Gray said.

In January, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that the four schools would be closing, saying the decision was based on low enrollment and large financial deficits.

“Given that we did have a pandemic, I think they could have given an additional year to raise additional funding,” said St. Ann principal Eliza Gonzalez.

Parents and alumni organized and raised money but in the end, their efforts fell short.

“I came out crying because I really miss them never thought I would go through this in my life,” said Jordan Dennis, a St. Joseph third-grader. “It’s really really upsetting. I’m going to miss my friends. Yeah, it’s just really really hard.”

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