Queen of Peace High School will close; St. Laurence to take female students
March 4, 2017

Current students love Queen of Peace, but will have options such as transferring to Trinity or St. Laurence High Schools later this year.

By Marie Balice-Ward

Although located in Burbank, IL, Queen of Peace High School long has served young women from this community, and students and their parents have objected to school administrators’ plans to close it.

Administrators from St. Laurence High School, an all-male school located near Queen of Peace, have offered a solution. St. Laurence will welcome current Queen of Peace High School students in fall 2017, making St. Laurence a co-educational institution. St. Laurence will accept other girls to attend the school beginning in fall 2018. The 288 current Queen of Peace students will have the option to attend St. Laurence or go elsewhere. The annual per student cost to
educate at Queen of Peace is $15,500. Tuition is $10,500, yet more than 60% of students require financial assistance throughout their four years of high school.

“We appreciate all of our invaluable donors and longtime supporters, but we simply have not been able to raise the more than $1 million ‘above and beyond’ tuition required each year to continue to ensure a quality education,” said Queen of Peace president Anne O’Malley. O’Malley said the school will close at the end of this academic year. “The financial realities and declining enrollment over the past ten years make it impossible to sustain a superior four-year academic experience for bright and deserving young women,” she said.

O’Malley, a Queen of Peace alumna, said, “I am personally distraught that the school has no alternative but to close.”

When parents learned the school would close in June, they rallied and requested meetings with Queen of Peace administration and its board of directors. At these meetings, parents offered numerous alternatives such as a major fundraising effort.

The board and Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation, under whose jurisdiction the school operates, did not deem any options as possible. Among the parents’ ideas the board rejected was “a three-year plan so that the current freshmen could graduate from Queen of Peace,” said Peggy Burger, whose daughter, Kari-Anne, is a junior at the school. “From the time that Kari-Anne enrolled, the school had consistently denied any financial problems. It was a shock when we received notice about the school being closed at the end of this school year.”

She further explained that Kari- Anne prefers an all-girl school and is dismayed that comparable schools are located quite far from their home in Bridgeport. Burger said her daughter “is sad, cannot sleep, and is depressed.”

Alumnae saddened

“I was saddened to hear that Queen of Peace is closing its doors,” said alumna Colleen Wilken. She explained that she has only male siblings, so the school gave her the opportunity to be around girls. She had a six-mile bus ride to the school, affording her even greater opportunities to mingle with girls including upperclassmen such as Jean Lachowicz, who founded the school’s first newspaper, The Amity.

Lachowicz said, “To me the greatest sadness of the announcement of its closing comes from the loss of another academic institution by and for women.”

Eric Vates, who has been active on the school’s parent committee, has two daughters attending Queen of Peace, Emilia, a junior, and Victoria, a freshman. He said his daughters are “crushed, devastated by the idea of starting at a different school.” Vates also stated Mary Kate Love, an alumnae coordinator, is helping find other schools for those who may not wish to attend St. Laurence.

“A transition team has been established to help students identify the best options for completion of their high school education,” O’Malley said. “Recommendations will be provided for schools based on academics, extracurricular activities and interests. We will do our best…one girl at a time.”

Another alternative is Trinity High School. O’Malley said the same Sinsinawa Congregation runs Trinity, which would give students a “like-minded environment in honor of the school’s priority—all girls.”

She acknowledged, however, that Trinity High School’s River Forest location may not feasible for some students. Therefore, bus service to Holy Trinity for Queen of Peace students will be provided, and Holy Trinity already has instituted open enrollment for those students.

Queen of Peace softball players create a human pyramid. For the next academic year, those who have not graduated will transfer to other schools.

O’Malley also has spoken with leaders at all-female Mother Mc-Auley Liberal Arts High School, 3737 W. 99th St., and co-ed De La Salle Institute, 1040 W. 32nd Pl. St. Laurence decision Mike Madera, director of communications for St. Laurence, explained that school administrators made their decision to go coed by accepting Queen of Peace students after talking with Queen of Peace administrators and parents as well as surveying St. Laurence students, alumni, and board members. He said they also analyzed Archdiocese of Chicago statistics.

The board considered several options ranging from not accepting any displaced Queen of Peace students to becoming a co-ed high school, explained Madera. The board decided on February 15 to become co-ed, but classrooms will remain single gender.

St. Laurence recruiting St. Laurence will recruit both girls and boys for the Class of 2022, maintaining a single-gender classroom policy within a now co-ed school. School leaders are forming a committee to ease the transition for Queen of Peace and St. Laurence students. St. Laurence issued a letter stating, “With the closing of Queen of Peace, we welcome a strong group of young women who, should they choose a St. Laurence education, will offer our community a new and valuable dynamic as they finish their high-school careers together.”

Madera said, “so far the parents’ response has been quite positive,” concerning their sons’ school welcoming young women in the future. St. Laurence is located at 5556 W. 77th St. in Burbank. Call (708) 458-6900.