There were plenty of reasons for those associated with the new St. Pio School to be marching the streets of South Philadelphia Wednesday morning. One reason is that St. Pio wasn't supposed to open at all.
"We had our rough times last spring with closings and mergers, but we've come back strong," said Principal Marianne Garnham. "Catholic education is alive and well for families in South Philadelphia."
The Philadelphia Archdiocese had recommended the closure of St. Richard and Holy Spirit Elementary Schools in South Philadelphia as part of its reorganization plan.
The community appealed and helped convince the church to open a newly-named regional school at the St. Richard site.
Wednesday was the first day of school for St. Pio.
"It's like very nerve racking, and also exciting at the same time, because you know you are going to go on to your future, and it means everything," said Cameron Centrella.
Not all of the students at the two parish schools ended up enrolling at St. Pio. The student body is just under 300, but school officials are optimistic it can expand to up to 400 students.
All of the teachers from both parish schools had to reapply for their jobs, and not all of them were rehired.
Theresa Polizzi is just glad she is back in front of the blackboard.
"It was difficult, but that is all behind us now," Polizzi said. "It's a new day, and a new beginning."
Parents in the community are relieved and ecstatic to see the building filled with their children.
"We had rallies. We had prayer services, and we were just thankful that God heard our prayers, and we will continue having Catholic education here in South Philadelphia," said Nicole Talamo.
Saint Pio now offers an expanded curriculum, having added Spanish classes, and remedial education.