By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

MILMONT PARK – Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park, Delaware County, will close in June as a result of a drastic decline in enrollment.

There are currently 121 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Of the 81 registered in the first through eighth grade, four are in the third grade.

Five years ago, 227 youngsters attended the school. Eight years ago, there were 262 students on the roster.

When the new school year begins in September, students who had attended Our Lady of Peace will attend Notre Dame de Lourdes School in Swarthmore, located less than two miles from the suppressed school.

Father Louis J. Kolenkiewicz, parochial administrator of Our Lady of Peace Parish, announced at weekend Masses Jan. 17-18 that Cardinal Justin Rigali had recently accepted the decision to close the school.

Despite continued efforts from leadership of both the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Our Lady of Peace Parish, parish officials recognized that sustaining the school was not a tenable option.

“I understand this is a very painful time for the school community of Our Lady of Peace,” Cardinal Rigali said.

“This school has a long and proud tradition of providing Catholic education to thousands of families,” the Cardinal continued. “It is never easy to make a change of this nature and I recognize that no one wants to see a parish school close.

“I am grateful to all of those involved who were so supportive of Our Lady of Peace Parish School and pray that they find comfort in their faith during this time of transition.”

As a result of the steep decline in enrollment, parents currently pay $3,700 per year to send their children to Our Lady of Peace School which, according to the administrator, is the highest among parishes in the region.

Archdiocesan officials began working with parish leaders several years ago when enrollment numbers began to indicate the school could likely close.

Last year, the parish requested permission for the school to remain open for this school year if enrollment reached 132 students, the same as the previous year. Although short of the goal, Cardinal Rigali granted the approval, pending futher review of the school’s future viability.

In the fall of 2008, Father Kolenkiewicz met with the parents of the school children to apprise them of the school’s status. At that time, he indicated he could not foresee the school continuing beyond the current academic year. This past December, after consulting with the parish’s pastoral and finance councils and prayerful consideration of past feasibility studies, the continual decline in enrollment and increase in tuition, Father Kolenkiewicz recommended the school’s closure at the end of this school year.

Cardinal Rigali accepted the recommendation in January.

Meanwhile, Father Kolenkiewicz said he is working with his parish’s organizations to formulate plans to “fittingly celebrate and express gratitude for the great blessing which the school has been to this parish.”

He also assures the celebration will acknowledge “the dedicated ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the wonderful lay teachers who have served our school” and recognize “the generosity of our parishioners and school parents who sacrificed so much for so many years to support the school.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468.