Friday, October 7, 2011

Breaking News in Chicago | Maria High to close in 2013 after converting to public charter school

Breaking News in Chicago
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The school that counts Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez among its alums “has been struggling for many years,’’ said Sister M. Immacula Wendt, general superior of the Sisters of St. Casimir that run the school.

The Sisters of St. Casimir have contributed “close to $10 million in the last five years-plus’’ to keep Maria High afloat “because we really believed in the mission to educate young women,’’ Wendt said. That includes $300,000 annually in scholarships to Maria, she said.

Even so, enrollment has dwindled from a peak of 1,400 in the 1960s or 1970s to “a tad over 200 today,” Wendt said. “The economics” of running a single-gender private school in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood have “become prohibitive,’’ the high school said in a news release Thursday.

If Chicago Public School officials approve, a charter school chain called Catalyst Charter Schools Network would open a kindergarten-9th grade school, called Catalyst-Maria, in the building at 6727 S. California in the fall of 2012, officials said.

During that school year, Wendt said, Maria High students would share the building with Catalyst students and probably continue to take mandatory religion classes.

But Maria’s days as an all-girls Catholic high school would end at the close of that school year. In the fall of 2013, Catalyst-Maria Charter School would add grades 10-12. Any Maria students who have not yet graduated could apply.

The sisters hope to eventually provide optional Catholic education classes in an adjacent building, now a vacant convent, either before school, after school or on Saturdays, to allow male and female Catholic students and others to continue Catholic studies, Wendt said.

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