UPDATE: Parents fired up after Diocese of Rockford special meeti - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

UPDATE: Parents fired up after Diocese of Rockford special meeting

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UPDATE:  Enrollment is dropping sharply for some Rockford catholic schools. Wednesday night, the Diocese of Rockford sat down with parents saying something needs to change to protect the future of Catholic schools. But some parents aren't happy with which schools the diocese is focusing on.

"The only thing that frustrates me is this is a discussion for all of Catholic schools. This is not to be a discussion for just the three schools that were invited to this room," said parent Tom O'Brien.

Those three schools are St. James, St. Bernadette and Cathedral of St. Peter. All on Rockford's west side.
O'Brien spoke out in frustration that east side Catholic schools aren't part of the conversation, and was critical of a representative from Meitler. Meitler is the company that collected and analyzed data about the schools' problems.

"You are not helping us, you have not helped us at all," O'Brien said to the representative during the meeting at Boylan High School.

The diocese says the three schools enrollment numbers have dwindled since 2010 and it's focusing on them because they're all within a three mile radius of each other, competing for the same students.  

Some parents were critical of the diocese for other issues, saying the problem is it's letting parents enroll their students in whatever school they choose and not the school associated with their parish. The Wednesday night meeting with parents was about informing and getting input from them about what needs to change. But the diocese says dropping enrollment isn't the only problem it faces.  A growing number of people are also leaving the religion and faith isn't a number one reason parents send their kids to catholic school anymore like it was decades ago. That's why one solution it's looking at is school consolidation.

"It's an option but I mean so is possible other ideas like maybe pooling marketing resources, sharing staff. There's other ideas out there. And we also want to get their input on things so I'm gonna try to reassure them that there is no decision made and there isn't going to be at this point," said Michael Kagan, Superintendent of Catholic Schools.

13 WREX spoke with several parents who say when it comes to school consolidation it is something they're open to as long as it doesn't come at the price of their children's education.


"I would hate to see a school close and then have a substantial loss of jobs or resources or any viable options to our students," said Scott Sanders, who has children at St. James.


The diocese study through Meitler found more fundraising could be an option to grow finances- but not the only one.
It plans more meetings with parents in the future and says nothing will be decided until at least the 2018-2019 school year.

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Declining enrollment at schools across the Diocese of Rockford may mean some tough decisions are ahead. Tonight, leaders of the Diocese will meet with parents and staff from three of those schools to talk about a new strategic plan.

St. James, St. Bernadette, and Cathedral of St. Peter schools are all part of the discussion at 7 p.m. at Boylan High School.

This is all part of the Diocese's new "Faith Forward" initiative and the goal of the meeting is to get feedback from parents on issues like enrollment decline and the age of the buildings.

Enrollment numbers have been in a free fall at all three schools, and Diocese-wide, over the past 10 years. Here is a look at the K-8 enrollment numbers provided by the Diocese of Rockford

Cathedral of St. Peter School
2006-2007 = 252
2016-2017 = 145

St. James School
2006-2007 = 225
2016-2017 = 120

St. Bernadette School
2006-2007 = 198
2016-2017 = 152

All three of these schools are within three miles of one another and thus recruiting from the same pool of potential students. Now the Diocese says it does not see the problem getting any better.

The big question on everyone's mind is whether this means there will be closures or mergers for any of these schools. The Diocese tells 13 WREX that no decisions have been made at this time, and if any changes were made, the earliest it would happen would be the 2018-2019 school year. 

We will be at tonight's event, which is closed to the public, and bring you more information tonight on 13 News at 10.

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