3 Rockford Schools Plan to Combine by 2019 School Year
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
January 18, 2018
ROCKFORD—The Faith Forward Strategic Plan, which outlines objectives and goals to strengthen Catholic education throughout its 11-county region has been the foundation of some important work for schools throughout the diocese.
As previously reported in The Observer, several areas of the Rockford Diocese have been of particular concern including Rockford, Aurora and Elgin. Demographic, census and enrollment figures all show some parish schools are struggling in these areas and competing for a shrinking pool of Catholic students which all causes financial concerns. 
According to Michael Kagan, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, this is not news to diocesan Catholics or for other private schools in Northern Illinois. 
The good news, according to Kagan, is that schools and parishes in the diocese began working together over a year ago to address these issues. 
In Rockford, the Joint School committee made up of parish and school representatives from the Cathedral of St. Peter School, St. Bernadette and St. James began working last summer to identify ways they could collaborate. The committee began looking at ways the parishes in west and central Rockford could expand their curriculums, offer more extracurricular choices while being affordable and maintaining the high quality of the Catholic education and identity they now offer in a cost effective way. 
Last week the committee and the Rockford Diocese shared an update regarding the work being done on that collaboration. 
For the 2018-2019 school year, the three parish schools will continue to operate independently however beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the schools will combine into a newly-named multi-parish school serving the west and central part of Rockford including all area parishes without schools.
 No final decisions as to school location, specific program changes or name have yet been made at this time.
“We are committed to enhancing the educational program and expanding the extra-curricular opportunities for our students,” said Michael Kagan, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Rockford.  “Making the transition in the 2019-2020 school year gives us time to plan thoughtfully and involve our parishes, schools and families in this exciting process.”
Throughout the next 18 - 20 months, the Joint Schools Committee will continue its work in subcommittees to gather data, develop plans and provide recommendations related to facilities (including location), curriculum, finances, governance, personnel, and other important factors relevant to the new school. The committee is charged with making final recommendations to the diocese in the best interests of the students, families and community. 
The three schools will continue to share educational resources and strengthen existing collaborations in the 2018-2019 school year. St. James and St. Bernadette Schools currently share a principal.
“Each of our three schools brings a unique history, individual strengths and dedicated families,” said Ed Geeser, chair of the Joint Schools Committee. “We’re working together to develop a new school that combines and expands our offerings to prepare students for success in the 21st century.”