Students and parents express disappointment after it is announced that dozens of Catholic schools in the Philadelphia, Penn., area will close.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Friday that it will be closing four of its high schools and 44 of its elementary schools, shocking the community.
Officials from Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast, West Catholic, St. Hubert and Conwell Egan were informed Friday morning that their schools will be closing at the end of the school year in June.
Officials also confirmed that 44 out of the 156 elementary schools in the Archdiocese will be closing as well.
Among the elementary schools to close, Annunciation BVM in Havertown, St. Cyril of Alexandria in East Lansdowne, Our Lady of Fatima in Secane, St. Gabriel in Norwood, Holy Savior-St. John Fisher in Linwood, St. Francis de Sales in Aston and St. John Chrysostom will all close in June, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.
Students from BVM will attend St. Denis, those from St. Cyril will head to St. Andrew in Drexel Hill, Fatima students will attend Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Gabe students will attend St. Madeline-St. Rose in Ridley Park, Holy Savior-St. John students will move to St. Joseph's in Aston, St. Francis kids will move to St. Thomas the Apostle in Glen Mills and St. John students will attend Nativity BVM in Media, reports the Times.
Currently, there are 178 schools serving about 68,000 students – a 35 percent drop in enrollment since 2001. In the past five years, the archdiocese has closed 30 schools.
The schools have suffered for years from rising costs and dwindling enrollment. Higher tuition, shifting demographics and the rise of charter schools have siphoned off many students.
The closings come as such a shock to the Philadelphia-area community that the term "West Catholic" was trending on Twitter after the announcement.
Supporters fear the archdiocese's Blue Ribbon Commission will recommend further closings.
Officials with the archdiocese held a news conference at 4 p.m. Friday to discuss the findings of a year-long analysis of the struggling Catholic school system.
"We need an honest response to serious losses that have been happening year after year in some of our schools," said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. "And this will continue to happen if we do nothing."
The Archdiocese plans to put the new school system in place by the end of the year. While they will try to place the teachers at the different schools that are staying open, the Archdiocese says at least 300 teachers will likely be laid off.
Students at the ousted schools reacted strongly to the news.
"Heartbreaking, it felt like a part of me died," said Anthony Moore, a student at West Catholic High School. "I can't even explain it, it just hurts."
"I was mad and I was really upset," said another student. "I'm a Junior and our class is really close. We're going to all split up for Senior year and not get to graduate together. It's just going to be really upsetting."
Students at St. Hubert Catholic High School in Mayfair held a rally in support of their school. Students at Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast in Drexel Hill also gathered at their football field in support of one another after hearing the news.
"It was shocking and it was truly devastating," said student Nicholas Bruce. "To know that the school that gave us so much is not going to be there anymore."
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