With fewer than 80 students registered for the 2009-10 school year, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Regional School will close at the end of the current school year.
The pastors of the school’s five sponsoring parishes—St. Francis de Sales, Mary Mother of the Church, Annunciation, Holy Maternity and Sacred Heart—made the closure request to Bishop Galante in a meeting in early June. After consulting with his school advisors, Bishop accepted the recommendation of the pastors and informed parents of the decision in a letter earlier this week.
“The Office of Catholic Schools has carefully considered the recommendation of the pastors, has evaluated enrollment and registration trends, as well as the potential for a change in these trends. The office has informed me that they concur with the pastors in their recommendation, agreeing that such severe under-enrollment makes it impossible to assure a stable situation for our students and families and that it would be a disservice to both school families and the parish communities to allow conditions to continue for another year,” Bishop said in his letter.
The diocese is offering transition assistance to affected families in order to ease the transition and to facilitate the enrollment of students in other nearby Catholic elementary schools. Tuition assistance already granted for the 2009-2010 school year will be honored at another Catholic school chosen by the family; a tuition voucher will be provided to each family that may be applied toward tuition at another Catholic school chosen by the family; and registration fees already paid for the 2009-2010 school year will be transferred to the new school at which the family enrolls their children.
Parents also were provided with contact information for eight nearby Catholic schools, along with the number of seats available in each school by grade. The schools—almost all of which are within a short two to five mile radius from Barrington—include St. Rose of Lima (Haddon Heights), St. Teresa (Runnemede), Christ the King (Haddonfield), John Paul II (Stratford), Good Shepherd (Collingswood), St. Mary (Gloucester City), Our Lady of Hope (Blackwood) and Holy Trinity (Westville Grove).
Faced with declining enrollments at both schools and growing financial pressures on the supporting parishes, a cluster steering committee consisting of pastors, principals, and lay leaders from Barrington and Bellmawr had recommended in June 2007 that Annunciation merge with St. Francis, with the campus of the newly merged school to be located at the Barrington facility. Bishop Galante accepted the recommendation and in November 2007 announced that the schools would be combined as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart with start of the 2008-09 school year.
The school opened in September 2008 with 152 students. Despite efforts to grow enrollment, by May just 97 students were registered for the 2009-10 school year. The diocese had hoped to keep the school open for another year, but registrations fell further and by June only 79 students were registered for the upcoming school year.