St. James School enrollment remains steady, pastor says

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Despite a growing number of Catholic school closings regionally, enrollment at St. James School in Sewickley remains steady, a pastor at the church said.

Classes at St. James began last Thursday where about 155 students are enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grades and about 25 preschoolers are in the 3- and 4-year-old programs, the Rev. Thomas Burke said.

“There's an increase in the 4-year-old program, which is a nice problem to have,” he said.

The eighth grade class this year is the smallest, with only eight students. Last year, the school had 22 eighth-graders, Burke said.

According to the National Catholic Education Association, 1,856 Catholic schools — or 23.2 percent — were closed or consolidated between the 2004 and 2014 school years, with elementary schools being the most seriously impacted.

“When you go below 100 students, they put you on the watch list, so to speak,” Burke said. “But we're at 165. We're still above water. I think we'll be OK. “

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh closed several nearby schools over the last few years, including St. Joseph School in Coraopolis in 2011 and Mount Gallitzen in Baden in 2009.

In June, the diocese announced St. John the Baptist Elementary School in Monaca and Holy Child School in Bridgeville would not reopen for a new school year.

Students come to St. James not only from Quaker Valley, but Avonworth, Ambridge, Cornell, Central Valley, Hopewell and Moon Area school districts, Burke said.

Because of the school's central location near Broad Street and Route 65, Burke said St. James is easily accessible. Bus transportation is paid for by the local school districts.

Tria DeNinno of Moon said she sends her two children — a third-grader and a kindergarten student — to St. James because of the quality of education and teachers, good learning environment and values.

“You know your child is going to be brought up with good values extended into school from what you're working on at home,” said DeNinno, who also attends St. James Church.

Burke said the parish has a lot of families from the Moon Area and thinks there could be additional interest in St. James if the district's Hyde Elementary School does ultimately close after this school year.

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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