7 parish schools slated to close in June

Students leave St. Anne's yesterday. The school is slated to close in June due to falling enrollment.
Students leave St. Anne's yesterday. The school is slated to close in June due to falling enrollment.
Posted: March 01, 2011

Jeff Hewitt of Kensington said his son has attended two Catholic schools in the past three years because of closures - and now he'll have to find him a third.

His son's school, St. Anne's, on Tucker Street near Memphis, is one of seven archdiocesan schools that will close at the end of the academic year, the Office of Catholic Education said yesterday.

"What am I paying for?" Hewitt asked angrily, holding a letter to parents from the St. Anne Alumni Association.

"The alumni want us to be patient. But what are we supposed to do? There are only so many schools around here. I don't want my kid in a classroom with 30 other kids."

Three of the four Philadelphia schools to close are in Kensington and the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia, leaving parents in the community wondering where their kids will go.

Along with St. Anne, the Archdiocese said it will close Ascension of Our Lord, in Kensington; St. Hugh of Cluny, in Fairhill, and St. Cyprian, in Cobbs Creek. In Bucks County, St. Martin of Tours, in New Hope' Our Lady of Fatima, in Bensalem; and St. Thomas Aquinas, in Croydon, will close.

"These are seven schools that have been suffering with declining enrollment for quite some time," said Kate Shields, an archdiocesan spokeswoman. "Most of the parents have not been surprised by this announcement at all."

St. Hugh of Cluny, on Mascher Street near Tioga, has seen a 56 percent enrollment decrease over five years, and its projected enrollment for next year was only 99 students. St. Cyprian, on Cedar Avenue near 62nd Street, has seen a 50 percent drop, and enrollment has fallen by 43 percent at Ascension of Our Lord, Westmoreland Street near G.

St. Anne has lost 39 percent of its students over the last five years, and there are only nine students in sixth grade.

The Rev. Joseph Brandt, St. Anne's pastor, said that it has been a struggle for the past five years and that keeping the school open would require a tuition increase that would price out many families.

"Parents can't absorb the tuition enough for us to be able to sustain ourselves," said Brandt, adding that he's had to freeze teachers' salaries. The St. Anne Alumni Association has scheduled a parent meeting tomorrow and hopes to convince the Archdiocese to reverse the decision, said Bill Stahl, association vice president. "We're optimistic that the decision can be reversed if the Archdiocese gets all the facts," he said. Brandt isn't so optimistic.

"I love the school . . . but we've been in jeopardy for a couple of years," he said. "It's a deterrent to enrolling new students because people are afraid we're going to close. Even the alumni association recognizes that."

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