Parenting: Catholic school decision looms

Friday is when recommendations will be made public on which Philadelphia Archdiocese schools should close.
4pm Friday is when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will announce results of an investigation. A list of schools to be closed is also likely.
January 4, 2012 5:18:18 AM PST
On Friday (January 6), the results of a blue ribbon panel examination of the Archdioses of Philadelphia school system are scheduled to be made public. A general statement about the report is expected during an Archdiocese news conference scheduled for 4pm. The full report will then be available online at www.Faithinthefuture.com. 6abc.com will also be providing a link to the report as soon as it goes live. While Archdiocese spokespersons have been tight-lipped on specifics, indications from unnamed sources and others familiar with the Catholic School situation suggest dozens of elementary schools in the five-country area overseen by the Diocese will be earmarked for closure in June, along with at least four out of the system's nineteen high schools.

The reason is clear: the shift in population toward outlying suburbs. Church spokespeople explain that too many schools in the system have too few students, a model that is not only unsustainable financially, but that draws strength from each school's academic programs. The hope, according to the Archdiocese, is that by reducing the number of buildings and combining student bodies, each remaining school will be made stronger and sustainable for years to come. There has also been talk of a new, more coordinated system for managing schools in the system. The Philadelphia Catholic School System, as a whole, has seen a drop in enrollment of roughly a third in the last ten years.

The blue ribbon panel has been at work for more than a year and during that time, anxiety has been building among families who don't know whether their children will be uprooted. The uncertainty also poses a special issue for the parents of prospective new students trying to guess which elementary or high schools will still be open next year.

Adding to the stress has been the previous pattern of piecemeal closings in recent years--- a few schools here, a few schools there---that has left some parents and kids on edge. Last June, when the Archdiocese closed St. Kevin's Elementary School in Springfield, Delaware County, parents told me it was a sudden and surprising announcement.

Rumors have been abounding as to which schools will be targeted this time, but there has been no official word to substantiate any of them. Meanwhile, school administrators have been trying to focus on the current school year and have been operating under the assumption that they'll still be open in the fall. High schools in the system have been holding open houses for prospective incoming freshman over the last few months and have begun accepting applications and application fees. Post cards were mailed recently to the homes of at least some students who attended open houses last fall at Monsignor Bonner High School in Upper Darby, Delaware County, stating that any rumors about that school closing are untrue. But officially, there has been no indication of what may or may not be coming from the panel.

The speculation is expected to end Friday afternoon with a news conference detailing the panel's report.

---David Murphy

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