Students at St. Hubert’s Catholic High School for Girls rallied Monday in opposition to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s plans to close its doors.
Dozens of students gathered outside St. Hubert’s carrying signs and singing the school’s alma mater.
St. Hubert’s is one of four Roman Catholic high schools slated for closure under a restructuring plan announced by the archdiocese last Friday due to rising costs and low enrollment.
The other high schools are West Catholic in West Philadelphia; Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast in Drexel Hill, Delaware County, and Conwell-Egan in Fairless Hills, Bucks County. Students attending a high school that is closing can enroll in other archdiocesan school for the 2012–2013 school year.
Officials at St. Hubert’s said enrollment has declined 55 percent over the past 15 years — the largest percentage of any archdiocesan high school. St. Hubert’s enrollment currently stands at 675 students.
The archdiocese also plans to close or combine 44 elementary schools.
The recommendations by an archdiocesan task force follow a yearlong analysis of the struggling Catholic educational system, which includes 178 schools in the city and four suburban counties.
“The content of the report is challenging — especially, and in a very personal way, for many of our families and students,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a statement.
“But we can no longer avoid dealing with enrollment and financial realities that have been building in our schools for many years. The restructuring proposed in the commission’s report is a critical first step in renewing the health of our Catholic education ministry.”
Appointed by Cardinal Justin Rigali in December 2010, the 16-member blue ribbon commission engaged in a yearlong process to examine current programs at all levels. The commission found that overall enrollment, which currently stands at almost 68,000 students, is down more than 70 percent since 1961.
The commission said parish subsides to the schools have increased by 25 percent in the last 10 years and rising costs have caused a reduction of full-time personnel to staff programs like art, music, languages and technology at some parish elementary schools.
“While the restructuring of our schools was necessary to ensure their future, our plan is much broader, said John Quindlen, the commission’s chairman.
“This plan is designed to develop stronger schools that are better positioned to deliver the high quality education that parents want and students need in order to compete in the 21st century.”
Officials estimate 1,600 administrators, staff and teachers will be impacted due to the restructuring.
In a press release, the Association of Catholic Teachers said it is extremely disheartened by the commission’s recommendations for the future of Catholic education.
“The closing of these schools will have a tremendously negative impact on all teachers, students and parents in our schools. The neighborhoods surrounding the affected schools will also suffer,” the association said.
“The association mourns the loss of these schools. We will be working with the teachers as they go through the grieving process.”
The association said the loss of 44 elementary schools would negatively affect the future enrollment in Catholic high schools, further threatening the future of Catholic education in the area.
“The elementary closings strip our elementary colleagues of their jobs. Unfortunately, these teachers have no contract to protect them, no procedure to ensure their future employment like the one contained in the high school negotiated contract, and no ability to extend health benefits beyond Aug. 31, 2012,” the association said.
The pending closures come at a time when Catholic education across the nation has suffered due to rising costs and lagging enrollment.
Nationwide, Catholic schools have lost more than 587,000 students since 2000, according to the National Catholic Education Association.
For detailed information about the archdiocese’s restructuring plan, visit www.faithinthefuture.com.