WESTCHESTER, Ill. - The pandemic has claimed plenty of restaurants salons and other businesses. Now, joining that list is a suburban high school where enrollment was plummeting.
The board at Saint Joseph High School in Westchester announced Tuesday that the school is closing at the end of the school year. The school’s sponsor, Christian Brothers, approved the plan.
In a press release, the school’s principal David Hotek blamed the decision to close on "the current COVID pandemic, with its severe impact on the finances of many families, and the serious fiscal burdens St. Joseph High school has experienced during the past several years."
St. Joseph was not without its glory days. Back in the 1990’s, the school had a reputation as a basketball powerhouse. In fact two of its students were profiled in the popular documentary "Hoop Dreams." NBA Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas graduated from the school. And the winningest boys high school basketball coach in state history, Gene Pingatore, put the school on the map.
But Hotek, who has been at the school for 41 years says it has always been about much more than sports. He says the school has "touched lives".
"St. Joseph has always been a family," said Hotek.
He said he’s heard from hundreds of the more than 11,000 alumni since yesterday: "Students aren’t remembering math class. It’s the teacher who taught it. And how they made them feel."
But today, hearts are heavy as the school’s students, just 180 of them this year, deal with the news.
"Of course the students were sad," said Hotek. "But I’m extremely proud of the way they handled it. They were upbeat... there was a positive spirit."
They and their parents will now have to scramble to find a new school for next year.