Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was among the parents reeling Wednesday from news that St. Scholastica Academy – where his eldest daughter, Amy, attends classes and his wife, Patti, once graduated – will close in June.
In public remarks on his last day before leaving for prison, Blagojevich said he had been comforted by knowing his two daughters were in “great schools.” But then, the “bad news” arrived Wednesday that St. Scholastica – one of the oldest all-girl Catholic schools in the city – was closing. “It was a grievous blow to both Patti and to Amy,” a 15-year-old St. Scholastica sophomore, Blagojevich said.
St. Scholastica, 7430 N. Ridge, on Wednesday became the second all-girls Catholic school this school year to announce closure plans. Maria Catholic High School on the South Side is gradually converting its building at 6727 S. California to a kindergarten to 12th-grade charter school.
Blagojevich on Wednesday appealed to “anybody out there who cares about this beautiful, little Catholic girls school” to “open their hearts” and do “whatever else is possible to keep [St. Scholastica] open.”
Over the years, St. Scholastica’s enrollment has dwindled from a peak of 1,000 in the 1970s and early 1980s to 147 students today, said Sister Patricia Crowley, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago – the order that’s run the school for 146 years, since before the Great Chicago Fire.
Tuition is $9,500 a year, but about half the students are on some sort of scholarship, she said.
To survive another year, the stately West Rogers Park school would need an enrollment of about 400 students and at least $3 million in contributions, Crowley said. “It is not financially viable any more,” Crowley said Wednesday. “It’s a hard day.”
At various points, Crowley said, St. Scholastica had considered going coed but the school stayed committed to single-sex education. It hired consultants to try to figure out why it was not attracting more students but the experts “couldn’t determine, really, why the students weren’t coming here,” Crowley said.
Finally, on Sunday, the 44 members of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago – with a median age of 77 – took a grim vote on the school’s fate. Learning the results of that vote Wednesday in the school auditorium, stunned, uniformed students cried and hugged each other. “This was a shock to them,” Crowley said.
The school that pre-dates the Chicago fire, but at a different location, counts among its alumnae Virginia McCaskey, the eldest daughter of Bears legend George Halas; Chicago’s only female mayor, Jane Byrne; the former mayor of Wheaton, Sheila Hogan Schultz; and Patti Blagojevich, who graduated in the top 10 of her class.
Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika