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Queen of Peace High School to close in June

Shock and sadness rippled through the southwest suburbs this week, after a Tuesday night announcement that Queen of Peace High School will close its doors at the end of the school year.

Established in 1962 by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, the Burbank school at 7659 S. Linder “has provided a mission-driven, college preparatory education for more than 15,000 young women over the past 55 years,” according to a statement from the school.

The announcement came just 10 days after the death of Sr. Jeanne Flanagan, OP, the school’s founding principal and a woman long respected, admired and cherished by the Queen of Peace community.

Tuesday’s news also broke just five days shy of Catholic Schools Week, an annual observance designed to celebrate and reinvigorate Catholic education.{{more}}

ÒThis has been a most difficult and heart-breaking decision,” said Queen of Peace President Anne O’Malley, a 1975 alumna of the school. ÒThe financial realities and declining enrollment over the past 10 years make it impossible to sustain a superior four-year academic experience for the bright and deserving young women of Chicago’s South Side. As a result, the Board of Directors, with approval of the Sponsor’s Council and the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation, have determined that the school will discontinue operations as of June 2017.”

According to Tuesday night’s statement from the school, while the annual per student cost to educate is $15,500, tuition at Queen of Peace is set at $10,500. However, more than 60 percent of students require financial assistance throughout their four years of high school.

ÒWe appreciate all of our invaluable donors and longtime supporters but we simply have not been able to raise the more than $1 million above-and-beyond tuition required each year to continue to ensure a quality education,” O’Malley added.

Designed to accommodate 1,400 students in the 1960s, the school has an enrollment of 288.

ÒWe have a wonderful campus and excellent faculty providing challenging Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula introduced in 2015. It is truly a loss to no longer be able to provide these opportunities for the talented young women who are destined to become our future leaders,” O’Malley said.

A transition team has been established to help students identify the best options for completion of their high school education. Personalized recommendations will be provided for schools based on academics, extra-curricular activities and interests, and personal match. Two school fairs will be held for students and parents to meet with representatives of other Archdiocese schools. A transition fund will assist students requiring financial aid to complete their Catholic high school education.

ÒWe are working hard to provide solutions to help ease the transition for our girls with a personal profile developed for each student to provide a good path forward. Nothing is perfect but we hope it will help,” O’Malley said. ÒWe continue to believe in the potential of each Queen of Peace student to reach for the stars and achieve her dreams just as so many of our remarkable alumnae have done since our first graduating class of 1966.”

Queen of Peace alumnae, as well as parents of current students, took to social media late Tuesday to express emotions ranging from shock to sadness to anger and frustration.

“We are having a sad evening,” one mother of a current student posted on Facebook. “My daughter and her friends (mostly basketball friends) are in contact … she is crying and sharing the news … all the girls are having a hard time.”

“We are going through the same thing at my house,” a second mom responded about her Queen of Peace daughter. “I have no clue on how to console her.”

Some expressed hope that Queen of Peace’s “brother” school, the all-boys St. Laurence High School, situated next door at 5556 W. 77th St., would go co-educational and provide a haven for Peace students.

In response, St. Laurence issued a statement of its own Tuesday night. It read, in part:

“We plan to work with Queen of Peace’s leadership team in order to provide help in any way we can. During their first year of existence in 1962, we opened our doors to them as their building was under construction, and we intend to open our doors to them again during this time of transition if needed.

“St. Laurence remains committed to providing a quality Catholic education to its students and has no current plans to go co-ed. We have seen increases in enrollment over the last few years that provide us assurance that the changes we have integrated in recent years have been effective.”

Barring a last-minute miracle, Queen of Peace will join a long list of Catholic all-girls high schools that have closed in the Chicago area in years past.

On the Southwest Side, Maria High School, 6727 S. California, closed its doors in 2013–and today, a secular, co-educational charter school operates in the space.

Lourdes High School shut down operations at 4034 W. 56th St. in 2002. Today, a secular, co-educational Chicago public high school operates in the space.

When it closed, Lourdes students were invited to attend a new, all-girls “Lourdes Hall” campus in Bridgeport, attached operationally to De La Salle Institute. That arrangement will end this fall, when De La Salle goes co-ed.

In the southwest suburbs, Mount Assisi Academy at 13860 Main St. in Lemont closed its doors for good in May 2014. Among reasons for the closing were dwindling enrollment and resources.

In South Holland, Seton Academy closed last year. The former all-girls Catholic high school had gone co-ed in recent years in an attempt to stay open.

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