The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford plans to close three schools in the city due to lack of enrollment at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
St. Edward, St. Bernadette, and Cathedral of St. Peter schools will be merged into the St. James School on First Street. The associated academic programs will be folded into this new institution, along with the students from the parishes affected by the closings. Communication Director Penny Wiegert says the closures will be the end result of a strategic plan meant to deal with a decline in student enrollment.
“We feel that Catholic education is vitally important, and so we decided to take a real good look at what we could do to preserve and to strengthen it, and this seemed to be the way to do it in this particular part of Rockford," she said.
Wiegert says the lack of students is due to people moving out of Rockford and parishioners giving birth to fewer children. She also says it's reflective of trends across northern Illinois.
“We know that we’ve lost in the entire 11-county diocese in the last 10 years the equivalent of 10 schools," she said.
This fall, preschool and kindergarten programs at Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Bernadette will be transferred to St. James. With the closures, there will be no Catholic schools operating on Rockford's west side, and the total number of Catholic schools in the Rockford area will be reduced to seven, including St. James Catholic School in Belvidere.