Two Catholic grade schools in South Philadelphia run by Independence Mission Schools will consolidate into one beginning next fall.
Students of St. Gabriel School at 2917 Dickinson Street, which is operating at only 28% of capacity, will attend St. Thomas Aquinas School at 1631 South 18th Street, located a little more than one mile away.
The St. Gabriel School building will close in June, according to a statement Jan. 15 by IMS, an independent network of 15 Catholic grade schools mostly in Philadelphia, with one in Delaware County.
Ongoing analysis of all the schools by IMS revealed that while St. Gabriel “offers a strong educational product,” its low enrollment of about 130 students has made the school unsustainable.
“Fewer students means less funding, and in recent years, expenses to occupy and maintain the school building have increased,” read the statement. The decision to close the school, “while difficult, was made in the best interest of the students and families in these school communities.”
St. Thomas Aquinas School, with its 235 students, can accommodate additional students within its current building, according to IMS.
“Our foremost consideration when making any decision is how it will impact our school communities,” said Bruce Robinson, chief executive officer and president of IMS. “We strongly believe that this consolidation is in the best interest of our students and their future education.
“Without the financial pressures that come with operating two large school buildings in the same area, we can invest in improvements to the facilities and programming at St. Thomas Aquinas to enhance the educational experience for both new and current students. Plans are already in place to paint classrooms, update lighting and provide after school care services, with additional ideas – sourcing input from students and families – being explored.”
IMS indicated that St. Thomas and other schools in its network can accommodate all students from St. Gabriel, and pledged to help families find the right school for their children and help with financial aid.
St. Gabriel employees may apply for positions within the network that are available for the 2021-2022 school year.
“Independence Mission Schools remains wholly committed to providing a transformative Catholic education that allows our students to develop intellectually, emotionally and spiritually,” said Brian McElwee, board chairman of IMS. “The closure of any school is upsetting for students, teachers, alumni and the surrounding community.
“Because our organization is not publicly funded, we rely on tuition, fundraising and the Pennsylvania educational tax credit program to operate our schools. More tax credits for scholarships would allow us to redirect the funds we raise to improve our facilities and programming so we can continue providing an educational experience tailored to meet the unique learning needs of students from low-income families.
“I encourage businesses across the region to consider giving in this manner, as it can truly make a difference in the lives of children across our city.”
Independence Mission Schools said it will soon announce a five-year plan to address investments being made to strengthen its schools academically and a strategy for long-term sustainability.
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