St. Alphonsus tops fundraising goal; archdiocese noncommital
St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic School in Prospect Heights has exceeded its $300,000 fundraising goal to keep the school open for another year, but the Archdiocese of Chicago has yet to make a final decision on the school's long-term future.
Church pastor the Rev. Curt Lambert said that after counting pledges Monday, the campaign to keep the K-8 school operating raised slightly more $332,000 since its launch last month.
The archdiocese set a Monday deadline to reach the $300,000 needed to address an anticipated budget shortfall for the school's 2016-17 academic year, caused by a recent decline in enrollment.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said a final decision regarding the outcome of the school's fundraising efforts would not be immediate.
"Any pledge amounts or enrollment figures will require appropriate study and verification," she said.
Though Monday was the deadline for pledges, potential contributors were told their donations wouldn't be due until March 31.
Lambert credited parents and parishioners for a fundraising effort over what was essentially the Christmas break that exceeded its aggressive goal.
"I think it was the enthusiasm of the people for their school," he said. "They really got the word out."
The school's budget crisis is mostly a result of falling enrollment, Lambert previously said. St. Alphonsus currently enrolls 160 students, down from about 220 students not many years ago.
As a way of getting the school back to financial health and starting the marketing campaign to build enrollment, Lambert is setting a new minimum of 180 students next year to keep the school operating.
"If we can't do that, it's not worth going on," he said.
Meeting even that short-term goal will not be simple, Lambert said. This year's graduating class of 21 is large compared to other grade levels. Ultimately, the archdiocese would like to see enrollment closer to 225 students.
Enrollment at St. Alphonsus already benefits to a small degree from the students it receives from St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Wheeling and St. Thomas Becket Parish in Mount Prospect. While St. Joseph once had a school of its own, St. Thomas Becket never did, Lambert said.
The number of schools operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago has decreased by more than half over the past 50 years.
At the beginning of the 2013 school year, there were 207 schools in the archdiocese. There had been 217 schools in 2005, 281 schools in 1995, 358 schools in 1985, 397 in 1975 and 429 in 1965, according to archdiocese records.