St. Hubert's not ready for last rites

Posted: January 10, 2012

THE DAY BEGAN at St. Hubert's High School yesterday with hundreds of teens lining the steps of the all-girls school at Cottman and Torresdale avenues, rallying in hopes that their school could be saved.

It ended with hundreds of alumnae - the girls' moms, big sisters, grandmoms (and even some dads) - coming together to start planning how to save it.

Hundreds of Hubert's girls - present and past - crowded into the school auditorium last night to vent and to strategize, three days after the Archdiocese announced that the school is one of four high schools in the region it plans to close in June.

"You were out there at 6:30, but when that first bell rang you were all in your seats in the classroom," alumnae president Louise Winski said to the current students in the room. "That's what St. Hubert's is all about. You know what needs to be done, what has to be done. But you also know what is right to get a good education."

Hubert's is slated for closure, along with Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast, Conwell-Egan and West Catholic. The plan also calls for 45 elementary schools to close.

Hubert's enrollment had the steepest decline of any high school in the Archdiocese, with a 55 percent drop over the past 15 years. The Archdiocese's blue-ribbon commission report found that only 40 percent of the school is being utilized and that the school has run a combined $624,480 deficit since 2006.

Enrollment across the Archdiocese's schools has dropped 30 percent since 2001. With 68,000 students in 173 Catholic schools, the system has the same number of kids as it did in 1911, church officials said.

The controversial closing plan has led to protests across the city: 360 students rallied at West Catholic yesterday, and hundreds marched from Fishtown's St. Laurentius onto Girard Avenue.

But harnessing the anger, tears and passion that filled the auditorium at Hubert's last night to overturn the Archdiocese's decision will be tough. The alumnae realize that raising money will be key - one thought: $70 a person to mark the school's 70th anniversary this year - but just as important will be trying to challenge the information used by the blue-ribbon commission to determine which schools to close.

"We want the opportunity to recruit the kids and raise the funds. We want a year," said Kathryn Ott Lovell, a 1992 Hubert's grad on the school's advisory board. "It's not fair to give us less than four months to do that."