Enrollment, Economic Woes Close St. Peter School in South Beloit
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
June 4, 2020
SOUTH BELOIT—After offering Catholic elementary education in the northern most part of the Rockford Diocese for the last 63 years, St. Peter Parish School here will close.
The news was announced in a letter released to families May 20 by St. Peter pastor, Father Steven Sabo. 
The letter explained that due to lack of enrollment and growing financial debt coupled with the financial blow and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the parish Catholic elementary school would close at the end of this school year.
The school is the second diocesan Catholic elementary school to close during the pandemic. While the underlying problems of low enrollment, some families’ inability to pay tuition and increasing costs were not caused by the financial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were certainly exacerbated by it.
Prior to the letter sent to parents and parishioners on May 20, Father Sabo and representatives from the Diocese of Rockford Catholic Education Office met with teachers and school staff to share the sad news. 
Staff will be assisted with finding other employment. and parents and students are encouraged to enroll in and will be welcomed at other diocesan Catholic schools. 
The parish will continue to use the school building for the parish religious education program. 
Father Sabo’s letter said “At the close of registration we had only 56 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade enrolled for the 2020-21 school year. That number represents a steady decline in enrollment over the last three school years: 
n 2017-18 K-8 enrollment was 82; 
n 2018-19 K-8 enrollment was 68; and 
n 2019-20 K-8 enrollment was 66.
“In September of 2019 the parish was presented with the annual report indicating the school debt for the last fiscal year of approximately $222,000. With the unfortunate pattern of families’ inability to pay tuition for the past four years, combined with the steady decline in enrollment, we currently owe the diocese approximately $275,000. 
“I have met with St. Peter’s finance council to discuss the fiscal challenges facing our parish school as well as the pastoral council to discuss the impact caused by this ongoing pandemic and the negative impact on our parish school. 
“Everyone consulted understands the gravity of this situation and though they share a common sadness and loss, they are supportive of the very difficult recommendation to close the school at the end of the current academic year. 
“Therefore, trusting in the providence of God and the wisdom of those having our common good in mind, I sent a request to Bishop David Malloy outlining our situation and the challenges the future holds asking him to support the decision to close our parish school. 
“Bishop Malloy with great compassion and sadness accepted our recommendation.” 
Father Sabo’s letter went on to thank St. Peter School staff and families for their dedication and encouraged all to continue their education as they are able in a diocesan Catholic school and to continue in parish religious education programs offered at St. Peter. 
Michael Kagan, superintendent of schools for the diocese, told St. Peter staff, “You have been a faith-filled school community for over 50 years and today’s announcement that your school is closing is no one’s fault. 
“Demographic changes in our church and in society at-large have severely affected Catholic school enrollment not only here but all over our diocese and the country,” he added.
Kagan said nationwide statistics show, “There are fewer school age children and fewer Catholic families. When you combine these factors with the world-wide coronavirus pandemic that we are experiencing, we have a situation where more people are out of work (so) we find ourselves today having to make this extremely difficult decision to close.”
St. Peter Parish is committed to providing religious education for its children and will assist any family who wishes to continue to send their children to a diocesan Catholic school.
The Diocese of Rockford currently has 29 Catholic elementary schools and six diocesan central Catholic high schools.


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