Archdiocese issues rulings on elementary school appeals

Decisions on closure of 4 high schools delayed until next week

Some Catholic elementary schools win appeals, will stay open

PHILADELPHIA - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has made changes to its school reorganization plan, meaning fewer schools in the five-county diocese will close.

Last month, church officials announced plans to close 45 elementary schools and four high schools in response to rising costs and declining enrollment. That decision led to appeals from many school communities.

Church officials announced Friday that, after hearing appeals, some elementary school buildings will remain open, leaving now 33 to close their doors.

"The review committee listened with open minds and hearts, but knew it would take hard facts to change the recommendations made by the blue ribbon commission," said Archbishop Charles Chaput. "After all, the intent of the blue ribbon commission was to create a strategic plan for stabilizing and reinvigorating Catholic education in our diocese, so any decision to alter the commission's recommendations was given a great deal of consideration as to its short- and long-term impact."

St. Philip Neri School in East Greenville, Montgomery Co., is still slated to close and consolidate with St. Isidore School in neighboring Bucks County, as decided by the archdiocese's blue ribbon commission. St. Philip Neri did not appeal the original decision.

"I'm very sad about it. The school has been a wonderful school," said Elizabether Meade, a parent who has two kids enrolled in the school.

"We loved it here. Now we have to find a new school," said Maria Bello, whose son just started at the school.

St. Philip Neri, in the Boyertown School District, has been open since the 1950s. The school has students in pre-k through 8th grade, with enrollment reportedly around 130.

"It's a very close knit school. There are teachers in the school who have gone to that school who now also have children in the school," said Meade.

"My daughter is sad, she goes it's a part of her childhood that's gone and they're taking it away," said Bill Marion, picking up his kids from school Friday.

Read the updated list of elementary school closings here. The archdiocese has also compiled a list of frequently asked questions regarding the final decisions.

Officials said they are delaying decisions on appeals from the four high schools by a week because new information has come forward about potential donors.

"I recognize how anxious all of those affected by this decision are to hear the final outcome," Chaput said. "I want to see this resolved, too, but this decision is too important to be made without considering absolutely every fact and all serious, substantive proposals, even if they don't fit the time frame originally set. We owe it to our teachers, administrators, students and school families."

The planned closures are based on recommendations made by the archdiocese's Blue Ribbon Commission, a 16-member task force of church officials and laity created in December 2010.

Since last month's announcement, schools slated for closure have held candlelight vigils, organized rallies and marches and presented enrollment data and financial projections to archdiocesan officials.

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Allentown, PA 18102


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