What exactly is the deal with the Chicago Archdiocese?

After announcing that several schools throughout the Chicago area would be shuttered at the end of the 2004-05 school year, the archdiocese then delayed the announcement until the end of February.

Then, in the wake of that announcement, the archdiocese has apparently agreed to reconsider closing at least two of the schools?”Mater Christi in North Riverside and St. Edmund in Oak Park. Mater Christi officials submitted a revised budget to the archdiocese late last week, while St. Edmund scrambled to show that it could increase enrollment for next year.

But a conversation last week with Jim Dwyer, director of media relations for the archdiocese, was less than optimistic about the prospects for Mater Christi, saying that “unless they come up with something that significantly changes the dynamics, the school will be closed. The enrollment is just too low.”

Dwyer also could not recall the archdiocese ever reversing its decision to close a school in the past, though he said “we’re not inflexible.”

Asked when a decision might be made concerning the schools, he said he couldn’t imagine a scenario where schools wouldn’t be notified “beyond April 1.”

That’s called picking a date out of the air. By April 1, school registrations are set. Not only do kids need to know what school they’ll be attending, but teachers need to know if they have jobs.

The final judgment, so to speak, will likely come much sooner than April 1, possibly some time this week. To keep up on the latest details, you can always check the Landmark’s website at www.rblandmark.com. We will update the story as soon as details become available from the archdiocese.

In the meantime, we cannot express how unfairly we feel the schools involved in this round of closing have been treated. Waiting until the end of February to make the announcement has put families and school staff in a bind. The later in the school year, the tougher it will be to find either student spots or jobs in nearby schools.

Giving schools the false hope that there may be a reprieve, however, may be the cruelest cut of all. Even if the schools are allowed to remain open for another year, their enrollments are not likely to rise significantly due to the late notice. Most kids already know where they’re heading next fall.

Our suspicion is that the archdiocese has no intention of keeping any of the schools open. Indeed, keeping two suburban schools open while city schools get shown the closed door would open up the archdiocese to all sorts of accusations.

All we ask is for fairness. If you’re going to close schools, then announce it early on in the school year, giving families and staff enough time to find other alternatives, and giving schools that remain open the time to plan for the influx of new students.