Joy marks news of sparing of 4 Catholic high schools

Posted: February 25, 2012

At St. Hubert, the celebration began in the cafeteria, with hundreds of students cheering and hugging after learning the school would remain open, and they spilled out onto Torresdale Avenue.

"It was an amazing scene, really unbelievable," Dave Schafer, St. Hubert's softball coach and a 19-year teacher there, said Friday. "As soon as the announcement was made, the whole place erupted. Then, outside, alumni joined in and motorists were honking."

The atmosphere was much the same at Conwell-Egan, Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast, and West Catholic after official word, coming from Archbishop Charles Chaput at 3 p.m., that all four Archdiocese of Philadelphia high schools would stay open. On Jan. 6, the archdiocese had announced that the four would close.

"We had the kids come to the auditorium, and we live-streamed it from the Internet," Brian Fluck, West Catholic's football coach and athletic director, said of Friday's announcement. "When [Chaput] said the schools were going to be saved, there was a big explosion of cheers."

Fluck, also admissions director at the school, said rumblings of the development hit the school around noon. "We didn't say anything to the kids, though, until it became official," he said.

Fluck, a West Catholic graduate, has built the football team into a perennial power. The Burrs won a PIAA Class AA state championship in 2010 and advanced to the semifinals last season.

"I feel great for the kids, especially the juniors," said Fluck, who has been at the school since 1999. "Now, they can stay here and not worry about finding another home. A great tradition stays alive."

One of West's juniors is David Williams, a 6-foot, 190-pound running back who helped spark the squad to a 10-4 mark last season. The speedster has scholarship offers from more than 15 Division I colleges, including Notre Dame and Penn State.

Coincidentally, Williams was not at West on Friday. He was visiting Archbishop Wood, in Warminster, and "shadowing" a student there.

"It's great news about West, but I don't know what to say," he said. "I'm in a pickle. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."

Schafer teaches psychology and American history at St. Hubert. In six seasons, he has guided the Bambies to three Catholic League championships.

"I did have a couple of offers to coach elsewhere," he said. "A lot of the girls were torn. They said, 'Wherever you're going, we're going.' "

Tryouts for softball season will begin March 5. Schafer, also a student-council moderator, said an informal workout is scheduled for Sunday.

"Now, after this happening, it's going to be an entirely different mood," he said. "It seems like the weight of the world has been lifted off our shoulders."


Contact Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com,

or @ozoneinq on Twitter.

Read his blog, "The O'Zone,"

at www.philly.com/ozone

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