St. Wal­ter granted fundrais­ing ex­ten­sion

Arch­dio­cese gives school an­other month af­ter se­cur­ing pledges

Daily Southtown - - FRONT PAGE - By Zak Koeske

St. Wal­ter Catholic School, which the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago had given un­til Mon­day to raise $364,345 or close its doors, has been granted a month’s ex­ten­sion af­ter se­cur­ing enough pledges to cover its full fundrais­ing goal, of­fi­cials said Wednes­day.

A spokes­woman for the arch­dio­cese said the Morgan Park school, whose ad­min­is­tra­tors met with arch­dioce­san of­fi­cials Tues­day to re­view fundrais­ing ef­forts, will be given un­til Feb. 11 to have all of the pledged money — which is nec­es­sary to cover the school’s ex­pected op­er­at­ing deficits for this school year and next school year — in its bank ac­count.

“We are very ex­cited and thank­ful for the Arch­dio­cese for work­ing with us on this,” St. Wal­ter Prin­ci­pal Sharon O’Toole said, adding that she didn’t think the school should have any trou­ble se­cur­ing the pledged money by the new dead­line.

She thanked school fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity mem­bers for all of their sup­port, say­ing she was moved by the pri­vate mes­sages she’d re­ceived from donors and well-wish­ers.

“It was re­ally touch­ing to see the com­mu­nity come to­gether around the school,” said O’Toole, who, while re­lieved at the ex­ten­sion, said she isn’t plan­ning on tak­ing her foot off the pedal on fundrais­ing any time soon.

“This is a good sign,” she said of the ex­ten­sion, “but in my mind, I know our work isn’t done. We got to keep up on the fundrais­ing.”

O’Toole said last week that St. Wal­ter had raised more than $200,000 through a va­ri­ety of raf­fles, sales, din­ners and do­na­tions since Novem­ber, when arch­dioce­san of­fi­cials vis­ited the school to dis­cuss the fundrais­ing re­quire­ment at a com­mu­nity meet­ing.

Ad­di­tional funds have since been pledged by alumni donors and the Big Shoul­ders Fund, a non­profit that sup­ports Catholic schools in low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties through­out the city and has

pro­vided schol­ar­ship money to St. Wal­ter in the past, she said.

The pre-kinder­garten through eighth grade school, which at­tracts a di­verse ar­ray of stu­dents from 20 dif­fer­ent ZIP codes, will con­tinue to so­licit do­na­tions for the fore­see­able fu­ture so that it doesn’t find it­self in a sim­i­lar bud­get bind down the road, O’Toole said.

Like many Catholic schools, St. Wal­ter has seen its en­roll­ment plunge in re­cent years, and is cur­rently down to 118 stu­dents, or about half what it had just six years ago.

It’s crit­i­cal for the school to not only main­tain en­roll­ment, but to in­crease its en­roll­ment in the fu­ture if it wants to re­main open, O’Toole said.

To­ward that end, St. Wal­ter will be hold­ing an open house for prospec­tive stu­dents and fam­i­lies on Jan. 27 from 11:30 to 2 p.m., she said.

Any­one in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing the school’s con­tin­ued fundrais­ing ef­forts can do so by vis­it­ing its web­site, stwal­ter.org, and click­ing on the blue but­ton that ap­pears in the bot­tom left-hand cor­ner of the screen, or by buy­ing tick­ets for its Queen of Hearts raf­fle at Beg­gars Pizza in Blue Is­land, O’Toole said.

ST. WAL­TER CATHOLIC SCHOOL

St. Wal­ter Catholic School, which the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago had given un­til Mon­day to raise $364,345 or close its doors, has been granted a month’s ex­ten­sion, of­fi­cials said Wednes­day.

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