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Parents upset over closing of Bridgeville Catholic school

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 8:18 p.m.

Some parents at Holy Child Catholic School in Bridgeville say they received mixed messages from school and parish leaders in the weeks leading up to last week's announcement the school will likely close at the end of the school year.

“This was all thrown on in the last three weeks of school,” said Julie Chabala, of Bridgeville, who has two daughters at Holy Child. “We were made to believe we would have another year to rebuild. It hurts.”

Holy Child pastor the Rev. Richard Yagesh could not be reached for comment. Parish secretary Linda Grimes directed questions to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Michael Latusek, acting secretary of Catholic education for the diocese, said June 3 the school likely will close next year pending a review process from the diocese.

The school on Station Street formerly was St. Agatha School, and became Holy Child Catholic after the 1994 merger of the St. Agatha and nearby St. Anthony parishes. The school offers preschool through eighth grade.

Latusek said the diocese presented parents with possible tuition increases, cutbacks in staff and multi-level classes for next school year. Only 53 of the 76 students who the diocese assumed would return in the fall said they likely would stay, he said.

“To sustain the school at that level, financially, would be almost impossible,” he said.

Chabala said parents were informed of the closing via email, though she saw the news on Facebook before receiving the email.

“I'm very upset about it,” she said. “To see on social media that your child's school is closing — it's not a good feeling.”

Denise Sarnowski, of Bridgeville, sent her two children to Holy Child, and one has graduated. She said parents first were told of a problem in early May, when the school scheduled an open meeting to discuss the school's budget.

Sarnowski called the meeting “acrimonious.”

“It was made clear there was a strong possibility of another year,” she said. “We truly thought that.”

She said learning of the school's decision via email “was painful. This is a close-knit community – a close-knit group of parents. It is a great school and a beautiful school, and it's been a wonderful 12 years for our family.”

Latusek said closure has been an option for a while.

“It's been a long process that they've been working on,” he said. “We sat down and met with them and looked at the numbers. They felt, as a group, with the lower numbers, it was not sustainable at this point in time.”

Latusek also announced restructuring within the diocese that absorbed one position and revamped responsibilities for assistant superintendents and consultants.

Brookline Regional Catholic School, which is on the St. Pius X campus on Pioneer Avenue, will take on a new name next year. The new St. John Bosco School will include students from eight parishes as part of ongoing redistricting.

The diocese operates 11 high schools and 79 elementary schools educating 19,742 students throughout Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Greene and Washington counties.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com. Staff writer Megan Harris contributed to this report.

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