By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

Our Lady of Hope Elementary School, on North Broad Street in the Logan section of the city, will close at the end of this school year, 2008-09, it was announced June 5.

Cardinal Justin Rigali accepted the recommendation of the pastor, Father Ephren V. Esmilla, that the school close.

The recommendation was directly related to a steady decline in enrollment. Over the past 10 years enrollment of the school declined by more than 80 percent. For the 2008-09 school year it was 136, but fewer than 50 students were pre-registered for the fall term.

It was estimated the school would need to raise $300,000 to remain open.

Because per pupil costs are directly affected by enrollment it was estimated next year’s per-pupil cost would have been in excess of $8,000. The parish itself does not have the financial means to subsidize school tuition.

Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools Mary E. Rochford said, “No one ever wants to see a school close. We try to think long-term for students and to provide an affordable, accessible, quality Catholic education. I recognize this is difficult and the Office of Catholic Education will do all that is possible to ensure a smooth transition that provides the best educational outcome for each family.”

“We are saddened by this, but a declining number of students and rising costs made it impossible to keep it open,” Father Esmilla said. “The Archdiocese for many years was so generous in helping us keep the school open.”

Parents and faculty were informed of the impending closing before the announcement. Our Lady of Hope students will be accommodated at a number of nearby parochial schools including DePaul Catholic School (formerly St. Martin de Porres Interparochial School) in Germantown and Incarnation School in Olney.

“It is sad,” said St. Joseph Sister Mary Catherine Manley, who does parish outreach at Our Lady of Hope. “We did the best we could do. My heart goes out to the parents. They had good school spirit and worked hard to keep the school open.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.