No guarantees for Catholic schools as Archdiocese of St. Louis delays closure decision
ST. LOUIS — The decision to merge Catholic parishes will come ahead of school closures as part of an overhaul of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ downsizing plan.
Archdiocesan leaders initially said the announcement of primary school closures would come in January and take effect in the fall of 2023, giving students and teachers time to find new schools.
The refusal of parents and teachers during recent “listening sessions” in each parish has led the archdiocese to delay school closures to the 2024-2025 school year, although some may still come earlier.
“Only after discerning what the parish landscape should look like will we discern what our parish schools should look like, as they are highly dependent on parish support,” reads a letter from Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski on Tuesday. to school staff.
As part of its “All Things New” restructuring process, the archdiocese is seeking to reduce the number of parishes from 178 to between 70 and 90 in the plan to be announced in May. About a third to half of parish schools are expected to close under the plan.
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The change in timeline indicates parental reaction has been understated, said Mike Oslance, a former Catholic school principal in St. Louis and the Metro East, most recently at Holy Trinity in Fairview Heights.
In listening sessions, parishioners were frustrated that schools were not a topic of discussion.
“Parents are going to be much more invested in what happens to their children than where the confessional or the 5 p.m. mass is going to be,” Oslance said.
There are 85 schools with more than 19,000 kindergarten through eighth graders in the archdiocese, which spans St. Louis and 10 eastern Missouri counties. Enrollment has more than halved over the past two decades.
Largest Catholic Primary Schools 2021-2022
|St. Joseph, Cottleville||843|
|Immaculate Conception, Prairie de Dardenne||727|
|Saint Gabriel the Archangel, Saint Louis||495|
|St. Peter, Kirkwood||493|
|Sainte-Catherine Labouré, Sappington||461|
|St. Gerard Majella, Kirkwood||430|
|Holy Child, Ballwin||420|
|Assumption, O’Fallon, Missouri||418|
|Holy Cross Academy, St. Louis County||409|
|St. Patrick’s, Wentzville||406|
Targets for reducing the number of schools include:
• Increase teacher salaries, which start at around $30,000.
• Increased student/teacher ratio from 14:1 to 25:1.
• Increased enrollment to respond to capacity building. On average, places in primary schools are 64% occupied.
• Reduce the need for support from parishioners. Parishioners subsidize about one-third of the archdiocese’s total school budget, or about $50 million in 2021-22.
The delay does not mean that all parochial schools will necessarily remain open next year, according to a fact sheet given to educators on Tuesday. School closings could happen “organically” as parishes merge.
“As parish models are decided, many schools may see their teachers apply elsewhere and families choose to enroll their children in the school where they will attend church,” the document reads.
The archdiocese still intends to give raises to teachers next year, one of the goals of the downsizing process. Tuition is expected to exceed the current average of $5,000 to $7,000 per year.
A recent parent survey “overwhelmingly supported a tuition increase to give our teachers fairer compensation,” said the Reverend Chris Martin, vicar for strategic planning.
Tuesday’s announcement does not apply to the two archdiocesan high schools in the city of St. Louis — Rosati-Kain and St. Mary’s — which are scheduled to close in May. Supporters of the schools hope to keep them open as independent Catholic high schools and have held open houses to recruit freshmen for fall 2023.
Mike England, president of St. Mary’s, said this month that the school had raised $3 million for the campaign called “The Work Is Ours.”
The downsizing plan will reduce the number of parishes from 178 to between 71 and 90, according to the latest figures from the archdiocese.
With a future in limbo, supporters of Rosati-Kain gather to welcome prospective students.
Rosati-Kain and St. Mary’s are among the smallest in the Archdiocese.