South Baltimore's Catholic Community School to close
The Catholic Community School in South Baltimore has announced that it will close its doors in June after 125 years because of low enrollment and financial problems. I'll post below the letter that the principal sent to families on Friday. It's sad. (UPDATE: I've been corrected that, while a Catholic school has been at that location for 125 years, it's only been Catholic Community School for the past 37.)
The school will hold an event April 20 with representatives from other area Catholic schools to help its 165 students find placements. I wonder if anyone from the public school system will be there. While we all know there will never come a time when all private schools in the city shut down, as Jonathan Kozol suggests is necessary to integrate the public schools, the state of the economy does provide an opportunity for the public schools to attract middle-class families.
As of now, one other school in the Baltimore archdiocese -- St. Michael in Frostburg -- is slated to close this summer.
April 3, 2009
May the Peace of Christ be with you.
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to you today; and to be very honest with you, I do not know where to begin. I sincerely regret that I can not talk to each of you personally.
Catholic schools throughout the nation are facing enrollment and financial challenges and crises; and our school is no exception. Over the past six to eight years, student enrollment here at CCS has steadily declined, despite our many efforts to recruit and maintain students. As the demographics in our immediate neighborhood have changed, so has the number of children living within our geographic area. Currently, there are 165 students attending our school, and this compares to 250 students less than ten years ago. Our projected enrollments for next year is fewer than 150 and in this challenging economic climate, we will likely struggle to reach that number.
Our financial situation at this time is dire. The school has operated on a budget deficit for over three years, and there is a projected deficit of $330,000 for the 2009-2010 year. At the end of the past school year, the school was forced to absorb a debt of $130,000 in outstanding tuition. Currently, $250,000 in tuition is owed the school. As the deficit grows each year, the enormous financial burden on our small school has made it more and more difficult to maintain day-to-day operations. In fact, we anticipate needing assistance from the Archdiocese just to make payroll before the current school year is over. Over the past five years, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has helped us cover over $500,000 of our expenses; and a very generous benefactor, who wishes to be anonymous, has donated another $500,000 to Catholic Community School over the past six years. This assistance has been enough to allow the school to continue operating in the past.
As critical as the financial picture is, the educational development of our students is also threatened by the declining enrollment. Current class sizes are approaching critically low levels and with even smaller classes anticipated for next year, we fear that the quality of the education of the students may suffer.
For the past three months the CCS School Board has assisted me in consulting with our finance committee, the pastor, and the administrative offices of the Archdiocese of Baltimore to discuss these concerns and to study the statistics to determine whether or not our school can be sustained past this year. After prayerful considerations and painstaking discussions, we have determined that Catholic Community School will close as of this June, 2009.
We realize that this announcement comes as a painful shock to you, to our teachers, our staff, and most of all to our students. We would like to meet with as many of you as possible on Monday, April 20th at 7:00 P.M. to discuss this decision and to assist you in evaluating the educational opportunities available to your children, including enrolling them in other Catholic schools. To that end, representatives from St. Casimir, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Philip Neri Schools will be on hand to provide specific information about their schools.
Those who have already paid a registration fee for the coming school year and are current on their payment of this year’s tuition, will receive a full refund. Every effort will be made to ensure that parents wishing to send their children to another Catholic school will be able to meet their financial obligations to CCS prior to next school year.
I ask you to please tell your children about this announcement. I also ask you to explain to your children that CCS closing is not their fault, and that you will find them another school that will be a good school for them. The children need to be assured that their “new” school will welcome them, keep them safe, and give them a good education. I have notified the faculty and staff and every effort will be made to address their employment needs and to provide for their spiritual well-being. We will have additional counselors on hand to assist any student or faculty member in the days ahead as they struggle with this announcement.
After the shock, denial, and (disappointment) of this announcement washes over us, and we have time to think about the “next” steps, I will look to each of you to help me and to help our children bring this school year to a happy ending. We will need to celebrate the time that we have had together. For over 125 years, many generations of families received a quality education rooted in our Catholic faith and tradition here at our school. We need to praise and thank our God for these many years.
Thank you for your loving support. Please keep everyone here at Catholic Community School in your prayers.
May the peace and love of the Risen Lord bless you during this Easter season.
Sister Vicki Staub, SSJ