The to reveal the results of a yearlong study conducted by its blue ribbon commission. The commission outlined an aggressive plan for restructuring Catholic schools in the Philadelphia region as part of a broader plan designed to strengthen the remaining schools.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has reportedly accepted the commission’s recommendations.
In the Norristown area, the commission recommended merging St. Teresa of Avila in West Norriton with Visitation BVM in Trooper. A source at St. Teresa's said teachers and employees were told that both schools would combine at the Visitation site but would operate under a new name, not Visitation BVM. Our Lady of Victory and St. Titus, both in East Norriton, are to merge with Epiphany of Our Lord in Plymouth Meeting. The new school will operate at Epiphany, but there's no word on whether or not those merged schools will get a new name.
All teachers, administrators and support staff at the merging schools will have to reapply to the newly created school. The archdiocese has estimated approximately 1,600 teachers, staff and administrators will be affected across the Philadelphia region.
You can find a full list of Catholic schools slated for closure/merging in our region on The Times Herald's website.
According to , students and parents at some area schools like Conshohocken Catholic School and St. Anthony-St. Joseph Elementary School in Ambler have held demonstrations and vigils to protest their school's closing. One Norristown Patch reader expressed her outrage on our Facebook page:
"As a mother of a student in one of the schools closing and also an alumni of 3 catholic schools 2 of which closed or are closing our family is devastated and outraged. I and many other families would love to give the blue ribbon commission and the archdiocese a piece of my mind. The archdiocese has dug their own graves on this one but yet our children are going to suffer..."
["Like" us Facebook and read the full comment there.]
According to the archdiocese, the commission looked at the educational programs offered at each school, current and historical enrollment figures, overall finances for the schools and parishes, current and projected capacity, facility improvements that would be needed and overall demographic trends. The commission reportedly found that enrollment is down more than 70% since 1961 and parish subsidies to the schools have increased by 25% in the last 10 years. On top of that, rising costs have caused a reduction of full-time personnel for programs like art, music, languages and technology at some schools.
The commission noted that St. Teresa's was at 67% enrollment capacity and received a $346,868 subsidy from the parish in the 2009-10 school year. The parish operated with a deficit of $9,957 as a result. Our Lady of Victory reportedly operated at only 35% enrollment capacity with a $219,388 subsidy from Holy Saviour Parish and a $95,047 subsidy from St. Paul's Parish. Holy Saviour was still operating with a surplus of $331, but St. Paul's was in the red $126,554.
You can see more enrollment and budget numbers for each school in the commission's full report in our PDF section. The archdiocese is directing parents and students with questions to www.faithinthefuture.com, a website designed to make the process as transparent as possible.