LEHIGHTON, Pa. -

SS. Peter and Paul School in Lehighton will close at the end of the current school year because of declining enrollment and increasing financial challenges.

The closing was announced Friday by the Rev. Michael Ahrensfield, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in the borough.

The school, for kindergarteners to 8th graders, is at 307 Coal St.

Enrollment at the school has been below 100 students for 10 consecutive years. Current enrollment is 86. Only 71 students had been registered for next year.

In a letter sent home with students Friday, and mailed for delivery by Saturday, Ahrensfield announced that SS. Peter and Paul students will be eligible for $1,500 grants to defray tuition at any other Catholic schools in the Allentown Diocese next fall.

In that letter, Ahrenfield said he was deeply grateful for all that had been done by the SS. Peter and Paul family to keep the school operating.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, a solution that sufficiently addressed the enrollment and financial challenges at the school could not be found."

SS. Peter and Paul has been operating in the red for several years. The church has been subsidizing its budget to the point where parish savings are nearly exhausted.

Last October, the priest announced study was being done about the future of the school. A committee doing that study determined enrollment for the 2014-15 school years would need to be 97 students.

It also determined money would have to be raised to cover this year's operating deficit.

Ahrenfield's recommendation to close the school was accepted by Bishop John Barres of the Allentown Diocese.