St. Alphonsus Liguori community celebrates school's survival for one more year
Parents, students and staff members at St. Alphonsus Liguori School in Prospect Heights Friday are celebrating the successful conclusion of their fundraising and registration drive to stay open one more year.
But they are already anticipating the next task of marketing themselves to move from the now guaranteed 137 students for 2016-17 to the 225 the Archdiocese of Chicago would ultimately prefer to see.
Rita Carino of Wheeling and her eighth-grade daughter Brigitte Cueter said they were both ecstatic after seeing the news of the school's survival at 1:30 a.m. Friday.
"We are just so excited about it!" Carino said. "Oh, my gosh! They are just winners!"
She believes the positive impact of the school's presence on the wider community will come from the students who continue to go there.
"Maybe they will influence 100 other kids to be better because of the values they learned here," Carino said. "If you have a kid, send her or him here!"
Cueter, who's attended St. Alphonsus since preschool, said she remembers when the enrollment was much higher than today but that the small size also helped teachers know exactly where all their students were academically.
Rosemary Baroud of Wheeling has four children in the school, the oldest of whom is in the seventh grade. Though dedicated to Catholic schools, she never allowed herself to imagine what she would have to do if St. Alphonsus closed.
"This school is like our second family, really," she said. "We're all so close-knit."
Principal Linda Chorazy, who joined the school over Christmas break, also was overjoyed -- not least because she knows what it's like for a Catholic school to close from her previous position at Our Lady of Destiny in Des Plaines.
"It's like a death," she said of that school's closing last year, with students being moved to St. Zachary School in the same city. "It's grief. And it lasts a long time."
The Rev. Curt Lambert, pastor of St. Alphonsus, said he was both relieved to have seen the school's survival and eager to move on to securing its long-term future.
"It's a great feeling to have the go-ahead," he said. "People were just wonderful. We know that this is not over. We are still moving forward."
Lambert said he first knew that the school had met its $400,000 fundraising goal and 135 minimum enrollment almost at the moment of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline. But he realized it would take some time for the archdiocese to assess the totals and make its decision, which was announced Thursday night.
Though he knows the school must eventually get up to 225 students or more, Lambert said he believes the archdiocese will continue to be supportive if steady progress is shown.
Anne Maselli, director of communications and marketing for the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, agreed.
"We're not putting any parameters on them that they need to get to 225 by next year or the year after that," Maselli said. "If you build that enrollment, you don't need as much fundraising to make up the difference. We're going to offer them support and marketing."
Given the community-driven effort that secured the school's enrollment and fundraising for next year, the archdiocese is confident in St. Alphonsus School's ability to succeed, she said.
The fact that Catholic Schools Week fell during the enrollment drive was fortuitous, Lambert and Chorazy said. And while they were two students over the minimum enrollment commitment by Monday's deadline, they said they think more students will enroll for next year now that the school is definitely staying open.