Holy Redeemer Parish to End School Program in DC

January 29, 2010

Three years ago, facing financial deficits and enrollment challenges, Holy Redeemer Catholic School, 1135 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, initiated a partnership with the University of Notre Dame Magnificat school program to revitalize the Pre-K to grade eight school. The Archdiocese of Washington supported this effort and committed to providing Holy Redeemer with the same level of financial support it had given over the previous five years.

Student academics improved, yet enrollment dropped, from 222 students in 2006-07 to just 149 students this year, and fundraising did not expand as anticipated. These factors, along with decisions last year by the U.S. Department of Education and by Congress to phase out the federal DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, resulting in a loss of these educational funds for low-income families, negatively impacted Holy Redeemer’s financial situation.

After consulting with the parish and school communities in fall 2009, the school community led by the pastor, Reverend David Bava, explored alternative operational models. This week, Father Bava very reluctantly requested permission from the Archdiocese of Washington to close the school program. Students will be encouraged to attend nearby Catholic schools, including St. Augustine Catholic School, which is located in the 1400 block of V Street, NW. Holy Redeemer Parish will assess alternative uses for the school building that are consistent with the mission of the parish.

“Fr. Bava; Ben Ketchum, the school principal; the school and parish communities; and the staff of the Magnificat program should be commended for their deep commitment to Catholic education and particularly to the children of Holy Redeemer School,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, PhD, superintendent of Catholic schools. “This team has demonstrated a collaborative spirit and has worked very hard to make this a successful school, but the uncertainty over the Opportunity Scholarships and the financial and enrollment trends unfortunately could not be overcome. The archdiocese will work closely with the school leadership to transition the families to another Catholic school and to assist the faculty in finding new positions.”

Holy Redeemer School was founded in 1954, when the population of the District of Columbia was nearing its historical peak. Of the 149 students now enrolled, nearly 35 percent are Catholic. Sixty students depend on Opportunity Scholarships for tuition assistance. That program is scheduled to end after the 2010-2011 year without action by Congress. The uncertainty over OSP’s future and the decision by the U.S. Department of Education to bar new students from entering the program this year already has contributed to a decline of 24 Opportunity Scholarship recipients at the school since 2007-08.

Over the five years ending with the 2008-09 school year, the parish contributed nearly $389,000 to the school’s budget and the archdiocese, nearly $278,000 plus an additional $65,000 to the parish. Fundraising and donations generated just over $500,000 over five years, including a one-time $200,000 bequest received in 2007. The school’s financial loss, after donations and fundraising, totaled more than $198,000 last year and is projected to be $184,000 this academic year. Among this year’s fundraising initiatives was a gala organized by the parish that brought in $50,000.

The Archdiocese of Washington serves 29,000 students in 96 schools in the District of Columbia and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland. Two schools in Maryland, St. Mark in Hyattsville and St. Camillus in Silver Spring are joining to form the new St. Francis of Assisi International School. The initial campus of this new school will be located at St. Camillus.

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]