EAST MOLINE, Ill. — One day after uproar from parents and parishioners, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline is no longer closing its doors. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria released a statement Tuesday, saying the decision to close was premature given the financial implications and the school will remain open for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The diocese said Bishop Louis Tylka had recently been in communications with Father James Pallardy who oversees the school.
"We have determined that our previous decision to close Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy was based on an incomplete picture of the financial (sustainability) of the school," read the bishop's letter to Pallardy.
It went on to say while OLGCA still has enrollment and financial issues, the decision to close the school has been reversed. An immediate plan of action to help determine the ongoing sustainability will now be implemented and overseen by the diocese's director of parish and school finance.
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced on April 8 that the school would close at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. The diocese previously encouraged students and staff at OLGCA to transfer to Jordan Catholic or Seaton Catholic Schools.
News of the decision-reversal came just one day after OLGCA parents and parishioners met with church officials, saying they felt blindsided by the closure.
During that meeting, Pallardy told those in attendance that a $750,000 trust fund had been helping sustain the school for the past five to six years and would be depleted after the 2021-2022 academic year. He also said enrollment had dropped from 158 students in 2020 to 111 this year.
The letter from the bishop reads, in full:
"We have determined that our previous decision to close Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy was based on an incomplete picture of the financial sustainably of the school. Although the school clearly has financial and enrollment challenges, we have determined that the decision to close the school will be reversed and an immediate plan of action will be put in place to determine the ongoing sustainability of the school as a third Catholic grade school in the Rock Island vicariate. This process will be overseen by the Diocesan Director of Parish and School Finance, Russ Courter, with the oversight and supervision of the Diocesan Chancery. Specific benchmarks will be put into place which must be met as we evaluate the school’s ongoing sustainability. Therefore the school will reopen for the 2022-2023 school year.
"I am committed to the mission of Catholic education and I greatly value our schools’ role in the formation of our youth. At times, we must recognize the fact that the circumstances that were in place when a school first opened have changed over the decades. Demographics change as does the economy in which we find ourselves. As we look to the future, decisions about the sustainability of our schools must be data driven and not based on emotions or attachments to our schools and parishes. Our desire to keep a Catholic school open must be matched by a willingness to sustain enrollment and maintain a solid financial foundation."