Parish Support for New Rockford School Grows: 3 to 4 to 8
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
May 3, 2018
St. Edward joins the previous three-school collaboration as St. James is tapped to be home to the yet-to-be-named new school. Eight parishes will support it spiritually and financially.
ROCKFORD—The effort to strengthen Catholic elementary schools in the city of Rockford, became larger and stronger, announced the Diocesan Education Office April 30.
The Diocese of Rockford has been working on its Faith Forward Strategic Plan that outlines objectives and goals to strengthen Catholic education throughout its 11-county region for the past two years.  
Earlier this week, the diocese shared what it calls “new and exciting details” regarding Rockford’s yet-to-be-named multi-parish school for the 2019–20 school year and beyond.
According to the press release,  a fourth school, St. Edward at 3020 11th St., has joined the collaboration with Cathedral of St. Peter, St. Bernadette and St. James schools. 
“The addition of a fourth parish school and its strengths, students and resources further enhances the potential of the future school,” the release said.
Father William Vallejo, pastor of St. Edward Parish, told his parishioners, parents and faculty in mid-April that St. Edward School would be joining Rockford’s Joint Schools Committee. The group is working on combining resources to form a new consolidated school in the city.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools Michael Kagan told a group of parents gathered to learn about the plan April 19, that “Father Vallejo was determined to preserve the parish school since he was assigned there in 2013. And he has done a fantastic job keeping the school going.” 
However, shrinking demographics in the southeastern Rockford neighborhood have taken a toll on St. Edward’s parish finances and enrollment. 
Rather than face mounting debt and further cuts to the curriculum, he explained, the school will join the three other Rockford parishes — all facing similar challenges to enrollment and finances — to form a new school that will serve more people in metro Rockford. 
Father Vallejo sent a letter to parents then met with them to further explain the process and take questions at the Tuesday meeting. Parents shared many emotions but most agreed that preserving Catholic education was the priority. 
“I don’t want the school to close, of course,” said one parent. “But in the long run, I know this is the best thing.” 
More parishes offer support
The collaboration doesn’t stop there. 
In addition to the four Rockford schools, four additional parishes have also joined the effort: St. Anthony, St. Patrick, St. Stanislaus and SS. Peter and Paul. 
Together, Kagan said, the collaboration of these eight parish communities will offer the new school a level of spiritual and financial support necessary to provide an unmatched educational experience for students. 
The pastors of all eight parishes are working on an inter-parochial agreement much like the one drafted by several Aurora parishes earlier this year to create the Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy.
The Aurora collaboration brought four schools together into two campuses supported by seven parish communities. It will officially open for the 2018-19 school year. 
Campus selected
School families and parishes have also learned that St. James School, 409 W. First St., will be the location of the new Rockford school. 
The location decision was based on a thorough facilities assessment conducted by the Joint Schools Committee. The group includes representatives and principals from all participating schools. 
While the four schools will continue to operate independently for another year, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs from Cathedral of St. Peter, St. Bernadette and St. James Schools will combine at St. James for the 2018–19 school year. 
First through eighth grades will combine for the 2019–20 school year. 
Families enrolling in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at St. Edward School will have the option to stay at St. Edward or move to St. James for 2018–19.
“There is exciting momentum for Catholic education in the Rockford region,” Kagan said. 
“Now with four schools and a total of eight parishes combining their resources, we have even greater possibilities for shaping a new, modern and state-of-the-art Catholic faith-based educational experience for our students. We’re excited to bring together our youngest students next year and begin forming a new school family.”
With a location identified, the Joint Schools Committee will focus attention on the school’s name, curriculum, finances, personnel, and other factors relevant to the new school. 
Committee members are working with parents, administrators and the diocese to create new — and honor current — traditions and strengthen existing collaborations in the 2018-19 school year.
“We are thrilled with the addition of St. Edward School and the other four parish communities to our effort as well as having a location identified for 2019-20,” said Ed Geeser of Rockford, chair of the Joint Schools Committee. 
“Soon we’ll be able to share more details around our programs and start building a new and diverse school family and tradition.”
Questions and comments about  the Rockford process can be sent to