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Five Chicago Area Catholic Schools To Close This Summer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than 600 students will be looking for a new school in the fall, after the Chicago Archdiocese announced it will close five Catholic schools at the end of the school year.

Holy Cross School in Deerfield, Incarnation School in Palos Heights, Our Lady of the Ridge School in Chicago Ridge, St. Cyprian School in River Grove, and St. Michael the Archangel School in the South Chicago neighborhood will close due to low enrollment and financial difficulties, according to the archdiocese.

The schools notified families on Wednesday.

"I recognize this is hard news to hear. In making this decision we factored the importance of having strong alternative Catholic schools nearby where your children can continue to obtain academic and spiritual formation," Catholic Schools Supt. Dr. Jim Rigg said in a letter to parents.

At Incarnation, 142 students are enrolled at the school, but next year's enrollment is at 112. On top of that, the school only raised $153,000 of the $600,000 needed to cover operating costs.

Parents begged for an extension to raise money, and planned to meet during Thursday morning mass to discuss options for keeping the school open.

"We asked for extension multiple times, even as far as Monday they asked for an extension. All that would do is give us chance to get them more funds, and we were told no," Incarnation parent Michelle Lafin said.

Lafin and Andrea Covert said the Archdiocese first notified parents in September that the schools could close. They had until this week to reach their goals for enrollment and fundraising.

Parents said the Archdiocese was not receptive to their ideas for keeping some of the schools open. Covert said Incarnation parents suggested merging with one of the other schools slated to close.

"We were planning on joining with Our Lady of the Ridge. The Archdiocese would not help us. As a matter of fact, they put every roadblock in our way," Covert said.

Covert's 7th grade son who can get around only with the use of a wheelchair or walker. She said Incarnation is the only handicap-accessible Catholic school in the area.

"How do we fill pews, and how do we continue to bring our youth to the Catholic church when they close doors like this on children like him?" she said.

Next year, kids at the closed schools will be spread out at different schools.

"Our kids are like brothers and sisters. We're like family. This is a family, and you have just broken this family apart," Covert said. "They're grieving. We're all grieving."

The five schools will permanently close on June 30.

The closings will bring the number of Catholic Schools in Cook and Lake counties to 209 next school year.

The archdiocese also announced three parishes on the South Side will merge. St Joachim's Church and St. Felicitas Church will close on July 1, 2019, and will be consolidated into St. Ailbe's Church under one pastor and staff.

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