Parochial school in Bethel Park is set to close
An attempt to sustain Catholic education by merging two schools in the Bethel Park area will end with the closing of St. Katharine Drexel at the end of the school year.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced the closing on Sunday, and pastors discussed the closing at Masses at St. Germaine Parish in Bethel Park and Nativity Parish in South Park.
“After weighing all the input from parish/school advisers and diocesan staff,” a statement from diocesan officials said, “the pastors reluctantly made the decision to petition to close St. Katharine Drexel School in June 2013.
“Every effort will be made to help families make the transition to another Catholic school.”
The pastors, the Revs. John J. Baver of St. Germaine and John E. Hissrich of Nativity, and the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, couldn't be reached for comment.
St. Katharine Drexel, which offers preschool through eighth grades in the former St. Germaine School building, was formed in 2008 with the merger of the two parishes because of significant enrollment declines at both schools, officials said.
A year before the merger, enrollment at Nativity had dropped to 48 students and St. Germaine, 86 students. Both schools had kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.
Enrollment at St. Katharine Drexel reached 101 students in K-8 in 2008-09, the first year of the merger, and 135 the following year.
However, just 73 students attended the school, a 28 percent drop, in 2012-13. Diocesan officials said the decline was expected to worsen to 61 students in 2013-14 because of projected lower school enrollment for Bethel Park and South Park, the two main communities that send children to the schools.
The diocese had hoped the merger would make it more affordable for families to send their children to the school.
But the projected cost of educating children, even after cutting staff, would be $9,500 a student next school year, officials said. That's almost twice the diocesan average.
Higher costs would have entailed a tuition increase of $1,300, or 40 percent.
“This would have been an unacceptable level for many families, and thus result in even further enrollment declines,” according to the statement.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- $5M Penn Avenue reconstruction project is ‘killing everything’
- Controller recommends hiring to reduce 911 center overtime
- Duquesne Club seeks permission from city to keep 4 rooftop bee hives
- Threat at Sheraden school a ‘student hoax’
- Allegheny County RAD increases budget by $2.5M for cultural, recreational programs
- Beaver Co. commissioners allow deputy sheriffs to escort motorcycle run
- Former Pennsylvania civil rights investigator from Penn Hills sues agency, alleges discrimination
- Penn Hills school officials trying to correct transportation problems
- Western Pa. towns eye fees to control stormwater runoff
- $21 million unfrozen for Pennsylvania school construction
- Pirates rally planned for Market Square