‘Our hearts are shattered’: Archdiocese to close St. Bede School

Despite a successful fundraising effort launched by a 17-year-old former student, St. Bede School in Ingleside will close at the end of the school year.

The Rev. George Koeune, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish and St. Bede School, announced the closure Thursday, citing low student registration numbers for the next school year.

As of Tuesday, 119 students had registered for the 2024-25 school year, well below the parish’s target of 182.

A fundraising campaign launched by former student Susan Lutzke after the school’s plight became public over the winter brought in more than $500,000, leading Koeune to announce in January that the Cardinal Blase Cupich had accepted his recommendation to keep St. Bede open.

“Our hearts are shattered,” Susan’s mother, Tina Lutzke, said of the decision to reverse course. “It was a long few months. We worked so hard. It was the parents and the families that did it. And ultimately our leadership failed us.”

Lutzke said it was hard to attract new students when the school’s struggles were so public.

“There was no faith that there was sustainability,” she said. “That’s ultimately what was the final nail in the coffin.”

Lutzke said she is going to make sure that people who contributed to the fundraising campaign get their money back.

Koeune and the parish finance council met Tuesday evening and agreed that the appropriate action was to close the school. Cupich accepted their recommendation.

In his letter to the parish and school community, Koeune thanked donors for their generosity and said those who have contributed could have their donation fund scholarships for St. Bede students to attend another Catholic school or refunded.

He also cited the discontinuation of the state’s Invest in Kids scholarship program as a factor in the school’s struggles. The program gave tax credits to donors who support scholarships for private school students.

“The loss of the state Invest in Kids scholarship program created a feeling of uncertainty for the school’s future that could not be overcome — even by an incredible fundraising effort,” he wrote.

Greg Richmond, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said about 15% of St. Bede students have been receiving a state Invest in Kids scholarship.

“The legislature’s decision to end that program was a blow to those schoolchildren and a contributing factor to the fate of St. Bede,” he said.

  The Lutzke family, from left, Kyla, 14, Tina, Susan, 17, Jacob, 18, Ryan, 12, and Josh led a fundraising effort to save St. Bede School in Ingleside. Despite raising about $500,000, officials announced Thursday St. Bede will close at the end of the school year. Brian Hill/, December 2023
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