North County Catholic schools will stay open another year

Catholic schools in North St. Louis County will get to stay open another year, parishioners were told last week.

Education officials with the Archdiocese of St. Louis are currently studying the health, financial and otherwise, of its schools deanery by deanery, looking for school closures or changes to be made in light of overall declining enrollment. Officials have already approved the closure of two schools next year in south St. Louis.

But all schools in the archdiocese's Northeast County Deanery — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Angela Merici, St. Ferdinand, Christ Light of Nations and St. Norbert — will remain open for at least the 2017-18 school year, said Monsignor Mark Rivituso, vicar general for the archdiocese and school oversight committee chair, in a letter to school families and staff last week.

Those schools have enrollments ranging from 358 at Sacred Heart in Florissant to just 167 at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Cool Valley. About 90 percent of Our Lady of Guadalupe's offertory is going just to supporting its school, the highest percentage of all the schools and a typical sign of a Catholic school's financial struggle.

The archdiocese will reveal recommended changes to those schools at parish meetings next month, Rivituso said in his letter.

Officials most recently recommended closing two schools in south St. Louis, St. James the Greater and Our Lady of Sorrows, and creating a new kind of school at St. Joan of Arc that would allow the archdiocese more control over the school.

The archbishop has now accepted that recommendation, and the new school will open next year starting with $4,500 tuition for a family with one child attending.

K-8 enrollment in archdiocese schools has dropped 31 percent over the past decade, while high school enrollment has dropped 22 percent.

This year alone, the archdiocese is infusing about $9.2 million in scholarships and tuition assistance into its schools, according to figures provided by the archdiocese. The cost of attending Catholic school has been one reason for the archdiocese's dropping enrollment, in addition to a decline in Catholic families and competition from other schools, including charter schools.

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