St. Agnes-Sacred Heart School in Hilltown, Bucks County, will close after the current term this June. Families and faculty of the school, plus parishioners of the two parishes whose children attend it – St. Agnes in Sellersville and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Hilltown — learned the news on Sunday, April 10.
As is the case with most school closures, declining enrollment is the leading cause. But as with another recent school closure, a new “transition plan” will provide subsidies from the two parishes for students to attend nearby schools.
At this time school enrollment is 138 students but is projected to drop to 106 in the next academic year. As enrollment has declined and with it less tuition revenue, educational costs continue to rise, including teacher salaries, utilities and building maintenance.
According to a statement from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the two parishes “can longer subsidize school operations without risking their own fiscal stability.”
Currently the in-parish tuition rate $3,935 tuition per pupil. If school operations were to continue next year under a balanced budget, the tuition rate would need to rise and the multiple student discounts be eliminated.
The parishes would also need to provide a combined subsidy of $560,000 to the school, draining parish coffers.
The transition plan announced by the pastors, Father Jeffrey Stecz of St. Agnes and Father John Schiele of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, provides for fiscal stabilization at the parishes and would open options for families of St. Agnes-Sacred Heart School.
For next year families may choose to send their child to one of six neighboring Catholic schools located five to 16 miles from both churches. Those schools include St. Jude, Chalfont; Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, North Wales; St. Isidore, Quakertown, Mater Dei Regional, Lansdale, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Doylestown and St. Joseph-St. Robert, Warrington.
St. Agnes and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart parishes will provide a $1,000 subsidy per student each year they are enrolled in one of the partnering schools. The Foundation for Catholic Education will also provide a $1,000 grant for the first year’s tuition to one of the schools.
Between the two, families participating in the transition plan may pay about half the current tuition for the first year.
The school families have received a packet of information detailing the tuition options and maps for the neighboring schools, which will soon host visitation programs for the St. Agnes-Sacred Heart School students.
Families must indicate to their pastors which school their children will attend by June 1.