Updated May 8, 1:30 p.m.
St. Barbara School parents are still waiting to hear whether the institution will open its doors next fall, but the prospects appear dim after the school failed to reach its enrollment and fundraising goals by May 1.
Principal Janet Erazmus said Friday that the school had enrolled 64 students for the 2012-13 school year as of May 1. St. Barbara Parish’s pastor, Rev. Robert Casey, had set the May 1 benchmark at 85 students.
“People are anxious, but we just don’t know yet,” said Erazmus.
On Thursday, parishioners received a letter in the mail saying that the parish and the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools were still discussing the school’s future but did not indicate when a decision would be made.
That letter also appeared in the church bulletin, which was available to parishioners going to Sunday Mass. In it, Casey discloses that the parish also failed to hit its fundraising benchmark of $150,000 by May 1.
That money was to be used to subsidize the difference between what tuition and an archdiocesan grant brings in and the total cost of what it takes to operate the school. It’s not stated in the letter how close the parish came to its fundraising goal.
“A healthy parochial school requires both a critical mass of students together with a sound financial plan,” Casey wrote. “The heartfelt efforts of many parents, board members, and parishioners over the years, together with our recently completed benchmarking process, have left us facing a lack of both students and financial assistance.”
But the letter fell short of announcing that the school was closing its doors. Instead, Casey indicated that a decision was still being crafted by the archdiocese. However, the wording of the letter hints that St. Barbara School’s days are numbered, referring to “decisions that must be made.”
“I continue to be in conversation with the Office of Catholic Schools, with Bishop John Manz, our local vicar, and with Francis Cardinal George, our archbishop,” Casey wrote.
“Together we will determine our next steps. As I share with them the results of our hard work, I do not take lightly the decisions that must be made. I thank God for the support and guidance of so many people during this difficult time in our parish.”
Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of schools for the Chicago Archdiocese, said that a decision on the future of the school would come directly from George in consultation with Manz and Casey.
“We won’t make that decision,” said McCaughey. “That’s between Father Casey, Bishop Manz and the cardinal.”
Casey did not respond to an email question on Monday asking when the archdiocese was planning on making an announcement regarding the school’s future.