CS&T Staff Report

Due to extremely low projected school enrollment, parents of two Delaware County parish grade schools learned June 7 that the schools will not reopen in the fall.

At Our Lady of Charity School in Brookhaven and St. Philomena School in Lansdowne, 89 and 88 students respectively are re-registered for the new school term beginning in September.

One startling feature of the enrollment figures underscores the seriousness of the situation. Each of the schools would have had at least one grade with fewer than five students.

With such low enrollment each school would have needed minimally to cut art, physical education and library services in order to remain fiscally viable. {{more}}

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make because of the impact on students, families and teachers. We waited as long as possible in the hope that re-registration numbers would increase and that the schools could remain open next year,” said archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools Mary E. Rochford. “One of the hallmarks of our Catholic schools is that we provide an outstanding education that is affordable for families.

“We owe it to our families to provide a rigorous and challenging academic program that is no different than what students at our other schools receive. It would not have been possible for these schools to provide that type of program next year,” she said.

The two schools are expected to partner with nearby Catholic schools: Our Lady of Charity with St. Joseph School, Aston; and St. Philomena with St. Andrew School, Drexel Hill, or St. Laurence School, Upper Darby.

Open house tours at the partner schools are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

Administrators for the Office of Catholic Education informed participants at the meeting about the impact of the low enrollments on the academic program and the costs per pupil at the schools.

If the schools’ buildings remained open next year, tuition would need to increase by thousands of dollars per student. Experience at other parish grade schools choosing this course has led to further enrollment erosion and even higher costs.

Current re-registration figures suggest per-pupil costs of between $6,000 and $10,000. The parishes subsidize the schools but do not have the resources to assume costs of this magnitude, according to the Archdiocese.

“We want Catholic education to be accessible and tuition to be affordable for families,” Rochford said. “We know many families are already struggling to pay tuition during these difficult economic times, and lower enrollments make that even more challenging.”

The administrators pledged to work with the faculties of the affected schools to identify other teaching positions within the Archdiocese.

Our Lady of Charity Parish School, Brookhaven

Enrollment in 2005: 288
Current enrollment: 176
Re-registration for fall term: 89
Projected average class size in 2011-2012: nine students (sixth grade would have three students, six other grades would have fewer than 10 students)

St. Philomena Parish School, Lansdowne

Enrollment in 2005: 196
Current enrollment: 141
Re-registration: 88
Projected average class size in 2011-2012: 10 students (second grade would have four students, three other classes would have less than 10 students.)