File Photo | Photo: St. Bede Catholic School

A private school in Ingleside will permanently close despite the community, led by a former student, fundraising well over the $400,000 needed to save the school.

The Archdiocese of Chicago in December gave St. Bede School in Ingleside a deadline of January 26 to come up with $400,000 or else it would be closed next school year, which starts this coming August.

The school’s finances were impacted after the Invest in Kids scholarship program was recently ended by Illinois lawmakers.

St. Bede School has 182 students enrolled ranging from pre-school to eighth grade. The students are residents from throughout Lake and McHenry counties.

The school was opened in 1958. In 2007, the original building was torn down and replaced.

St. Bede alumni Susan Lutzke, a senior at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, created a GoFundMe account after learning the school was at risk of closing.

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Just 32 days later, Lutzke’s fundraiser reached the $400,000 goal needed to save the school. The account raised over $500,000 and an additional $400,000 was pledged from a woman out of state.

Reverend George Koeune, pastor of Our Lake of the Lakes Parish, informed parishioners and school families in mid-January that the Chicago Archdiocese’s Cardinal Blase Cupich accepted his recommendation to keep the school open.

In a reversal, Koeune sent a letter on Thursday to families and announced that St. Bede would be closing at the end of the school year.

Koeune said 119 students had registered for next year, which was far below the expected total of 182.

“As I’ve shared in the past, stable and even increased enrollment is necessary for the long-term sustainability of St. Bede School,” Koeune said, adding that the loss of the state’s Invest in Kids scholarship program created a “feeling of uncertainty for the school’s future that could not be overcome.”

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Cupich accepted the latest recommendation to close the school.

The school said GoFundMe donors would be contacted with the option to have their gift refunded or redirected to support students at other schools.

“Our hearts are broken,” Susan Lutzke’s mother, Tina Lutzke, said in a statement Friday after the announcement.

“Not only did we raise the money, we surpassed our goal with time to spare. Unfortunately, our Parish leadership and school administration failed us. We implored our Pastor to be present and active at our school. He was too busy,” Lutzke said.

Lutzke said the administration did not work with the school board to come up with a plan for sustainability and instead dissolved the board entirely.

“Not once did they meet face to face with the families to answer the tough questions. Instead, they hid. In the end, they pushed away and villainized the very people that worked so hard to save our school. Sadly, we were at the mercy of the very same people that got us into this predicament to get us out of it. It’s no wonder we failed,” Lutzke said.

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