4 Aurora Catholic schools will consolidate to 2 campuses
Four Aurora Catholic schools are among the first to be consolidated within the Diocese of Rockford starting next school year due to declining enrollment.
There is no plan yet to consolidate the diocese's four Elgin schools, leaders said.
Throughout the diocese -- which encompasses 105 parishes across 11 northern Illinois counties -- enrollment is down about 600 students, or 4.6 percent, at 40 elementary schools and six high schools. The diocese educates nearly 13,000 students, predominantly in Aurora, Elgin and Rockford.
There are 336 empty seats combined among the Aurora schools targeted for consolidation -- Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Therese of Jesus. The schools are operating at 60 percent capacity, with overall enrollment at 537 students in prekindergarten through eighth grades. The strategic plans calls diocesan schools to be at 85 percent capacity.
Students from those four parish schools will form the new Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy this fall. They will be split into two campuses housed at St. Joseph and Our Lady of Good Counsel school buildings. Three other Aurora parishes without schools -- Sacred Heart, St. Nicholas and St. Mary's -- also will send students there.
"We've never had that many parishes support one school before," said Michael Kagan, superintendent of schools for the diocese. "This decision was made in order to try to strengthen elementary education in our southeast part of Aurora. Part of the focus of this new school will be to meet the needs of our Hispanic brethren."
Latinos make up roughly 90 percent of the parish populations feeding into the new school.
St. Therese and St. Peter schools will be used for religious education, adult education and other parish activities. St. Peter's gymnasium and soccer field will be used by students from the new school, Kagan added.
A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, at Aurora Catholic Central High School, to talk about the changes. Families can offer input on school colors, mascot and uniforms.
Fewer Catholics living in the region and an abundance of educational choices with good public, charter and private school alternatives have contributed to enrollment declines, mirroring a nationwide trend. Further declines in the population of school-age children are projected with declining birthrates statewide, leaders said.
In Elgin, St. Thomas More and St. Laurence parishes will be focusing on increasing enrollment to keep schools open.
St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes are discussing ideas for collaborating resources next school year. Consolidation could be in their future, but that has not been decided, Kagan said.
Altogether, the four schools educate 665 students.
Other diocesan schools within Kane County -- Holy Cross in Batavia, St. Peter in Geneva, St. Charles Borromeo in Hampshire and St. Patrick in St. Charles -- are not affected.
Beyond enrollment concerns, the purpose of the diocese's strategic plan is to review its academic offerings, renew emphasis on Catholic identity, and revamp how schools' finances are managed and facilities are used. Ultimately, the goal is for schools to support themselves through tuition, fundraising and some financial help from their parishes.
"We want all our schools to create their own strategic plan," Kagan said.
"Not every school is going to be consolidated or changed."
Aurora Catholic schools consolidatingFour Aurora Catholic schools that will be consolidating into two campuses this fall have a total enrollment of 537 students in preschool through eighth grades.
• St. JosephAddress: 706 High St.
Built: 1963; addition built in 1996. School opened in 1899
Enrollment: 145 with preschool
Facilities: 11 classrooms
• Our Lady of Good CounselAddress: 601 Talma St.
Built: 1962; open since 1910
Enrollment: 183 with preschool
Facilities: 11 classrooms
• St. Peter Address: 915 Sard Ave.
Enrollment: 73 without preschool
Facilities: 10 classrooms
• St. Therese of JesusAddress: 255 N. Farnsworth Ave.
Enrollment: 136 with preschool
Facilities: 8 classrooms