Archdiocese Decides to Close St. Philip Neri
Catholic School Will Join Regional Quakertown School
It will be business as usual for the most part at St. Philip Neri School in East Greenville for the rest of the school year even though it has been announced the Catholic school will be one of 44 closing at the end of the school year.
After 60 years of serving the Pennsburg area, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has accepted a recommendation to close St. Philip Neri School at the end of the current school year.
The school, located at 26 Sixth St. in East Greenville, is one of 44 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese that will be closed or combined with other schools beginning in the 2012-13 school year. The closure comes after year-long study by a Blue Ribbon Commission that analyzed the sustainability of all schools within the archdiocese. The 16-member commission was appointed by Cardinal Justin Rigali in 2010.
Archbishop Charles Chaput took over direction of the archdiocese in September 2011, and on Friday, decided to accept the commission’s recommendations.
“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,” Chaput said in a press release.
The commission found that overall enrollment within the archdiocese is down more than 70 percent since 1961, parish subsidies 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.
“It’s very sad. A sad situation,” St. Philip Neri Prinicpal Patricia Schleeweiss said. There are 132 students enrolled at the school this year in grades pre-K to eighth.
According to the Blue Ribbon Commission website, the current enrollment capacity of St. Phillip-Neri is at 48 percent, although Schleeweiss said she did not know how the commission determined that figure. The commission website also states that the elementary school faced a $215,240 deficit in the 2009-10 school year.
St. Philip Neri will be joined with two other schools – St. John the Baptist in Ottsville and St. Isidore in Quakertown – to form a new regional school about 10 miles away at 603 West Broad St. in Quakertown. The building housed what was previously the St. Isidore school. The name of the school, which will enroll a projected 500 students, has not yet been determined.
“I feel we have an excellent program and by joining the programs together we can continue that excellence,” Schleeweiss said.
According to Schleeweiss, St. Philip Neri will see its 60th graduation this year before closing its doors. However, the school plans to continue its religious education and pre-kindergarten programs at the South Sixth Street location.
“We feel at this point we’ll keep pre-K here because we feel there’s a need for it,” she said.
Teachers in all three schools received notice that their positions will be terminated at the end of the school year, but they can apply for positions at the new school in Quakertown. Schleeweiss said there are about 15 members on the teaching staff at St. Philip Neri.
She added that current bussing providers will continue to transport students to the new school in Quakertown.
“The archdiocese is very much behind us and working with us” to answer questions and provide guidance, Schleeweiss said Wednesday. Principals of the affected schools and priests from related parishes met Tuesday to discuss the closures.
Parents waiting to pick up their children after school on Monday echoed Schleeweiss’ sentiment about the closure.
“They have to do what they have to do and it’s just sad,” Theresa Devine of Red Hill said. Devine’s daughter is enrolled in the preschool program at St. Philip Neri.
Bridget Leese of Pennsburg, who also has a daughter in the preschool program, said, “I’m sad [about the school closing]. I have a 3-year-old that I was hoping to get in next year.”
Some parents waiting for their children said they are unsure whether they will continue to enroll their children at the new Quakertown school. One man waiting for his granddaughter outside the school said the Quakertown location is “too far away,” adding, “It’s very sad. They had a good thing going here.”