Historic Queen of All Saints school deals with modern times: Recession

Queen of All Saints Catholic school has been a fixture in the Sauganash neighborhood since the 1940s, a place where families can send their children for a quality parochial education.

But like other Catholic and private schools in the city, Queen of All Saints has been challenged by the deteriorating economy.

During the school year that ended this month, the school has weathered concerns about enrollment declines, a reduction in staff, and larger class sizes.

Still, the parish community has rallied around their school. A recent parish fundraiser brought in several hundred thousand dollars, church officials said, part of which helps pay for school operations.

Pastor Wayne Prist also noted that the school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a prestigious "blue ribbon" school in 2008. The recognition is based on academic achievement or dramatic gains in test scores.

And parents continue to praise the caring atmosphere that draws them to the school.

Parent Julie Fattore talks about the comforting way that faculty members deal with pre-school children. “It's like that milk and cookie feeling,” Fattore says.

That's not to say that conditions are perfect.

Ryan Blackburn, the director of marketing and communications for the
Chicago Archdiocese said Queen of All Saints' enrollment has declined from 640 to 580 in the last five years. 

Still, the school maintains one of the highest enrollments of Catholic schools in the city, according to parent and School Council member Mike Kirchberg.

He and his wife Colleen picked Queen of all Saints not only because it is within walking distance of their home, but also because of the sense of community the school and parish offer.

One plus has been small class sizes, but those are expected to be larger next school year because of a reduction in staff.

Two teachers decided to retire and another made a career change, so there will be three fewer teachers at the school next year, according to Cathy Carroll, who serves on both the parish and the school councils.

Though class sizes will increase, the number of students will not exceed the school council's guideline of a maximum of 30 students per class, Carroll said.

"We always put children first when it comes to the budget,'' she said.