St. Basil Academy in Jenkintown announces planned closure after 2020-2021 school year

JENKINTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Officials with St. Basil Academy in Jenkintown, Pa. have announced the private, all-girls high school will close permanently at the end of this academic year.

In a letter to families, school leaders say existing financial and enrollment challenges were compounded by the pandemic, leaving them with no other choice but to close.

Many parents and students were shocked by this news, having just started a hybrid model school year.

"I was really shocked because I didn't think it was going to close," said freshman Paige Lewandowski, standing outside the school. "All of the teachers and the girls are so nice and it's really close to my house. It was really easy. It's just a really good community."

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The school was established by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, a Ukrainian Catholic organization, in 1931.

The letter says a fundraising campaign launched last year fell short of its goals, and COVID-19 put more burdens on many families.

Action News spoke with shocked alumnae.

"I've known for a while they've been trying to raise funds and enrollments not where it needs to be. But I didn't see this coming at all," said Danielle Sperber of Horsham, who graduated from St. Basil's in 2000.

She started a Facebook group to raise funds or provide support to the current students.

"We have so many alumni who are in all different careers. Are there people who can help them work through the process of what they're dealing with emotionally?" said Sperber.

Neighbors who live next to the school wonder what will happen with the building and property. The principal told Action News on Thursday it's too early to tell.

As the news spread, people shared their memories.

"It's just so beautiful how they keep the property and we love them as a neighbor," said Margie Gilbert, who has lived in the neighborhood next to the school for 36 years.

"You had to take the exam to get in so when you did get picked it was an honor to go to that school," said Julie Lauff of Elkins Park, who knew many young women who strived to get in when she was younger.

The letter sent Thursday also said the staff is committed to helping current students find alternate schools.

A virtual informational meeting for families is planned for Tuesday evening.
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