Mother Catherine Spalding School to Close this June
Parent Group Exploring Creation of a New Independent Catholic School on MCSS Property
Friday, January 16, 2015
WASHINGTON – Mother Catherine Spalding School, a small Catholic school in Helen, Md., will close at the end of this academic year. The request to close the school was submitted to the archdiocese by the school’s canonical administrator in collaboration with the priests at the parishes that have supported the school, which include Holy Angels (Avenue), Sacred Heart (Bushwood), Our Lady of the Wayside (Chaptico), Immaculate Conception (Mechanicsville) and St. Joseph’s (Morganza). The request was accepted and the school will close its doors at the end of this school year in June.
Over the last five years, the school has experienced a significant decline in enrollment. Despite the collaborative efforts of the parishes supporting the school, the school’s advisory board, marketing and fundraising committees, countless supporters from the community, and the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office, enrollment has not sufficiently increased and the fundraising goals and deficits have reached unmanageable proportions. With only 115 students in grades kindergarten through eight, the school will deplete its savings to cover budget shortfalls by the end of summer 2015 and has insufficient reserves to open in August.
Since the first consultation meeting four years ago to communicate these financial challenges to the school community, there have been multiple additional meetings and discussions. Throughout the process, school families have been kept informed and updated on the status of the school.
While some in the community believe that additional funds can be raised, that enrollment will increase, and that cuts to the operating budget will allow the school to open in August 2015, the financial risk involved in opening this school next year cannot be borne by the supporting parishes or the archdiocese. The priests of the parishes supporting Mother Catherine Spalding School believe that it is essential not to jeopardize parish financial reserves by attempting to open the school next fall.
Recently, however, the leadership of a new group, the “Friends of Mother Catherine Spalding School Society,” requested discussion with archdiocesan officials regarding their proposal to open a new, independent Catholic school in the Mother Catherine Spalding School building. The group also met with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, to discuss their plans. In a letter to the school community announcing the closure of Mother Catherine Spalding School, the Cardinal stated that he applauds the group’s noble effort and wishes them well. He also noted that the archdiocese has been unable, with the parishes, to sustain the school going into the future, and this group faces a very substantial challenge. However, the archdiocese is supportive of the efforts of the parent group and has begun developing an arrangement whereby the Mother Catherine Spalding School building could be leased, for $1 a year, for such a new, independent school proposed to be founded and operated by parents. The archdiocese is committed to providing assistance to this new effort but would not be responsible for the operations or finances of this proposed new school.
As Mother Catherine Spalding School will close this June, the leadership of MCSS and the Catholic Schools Office will reach out to parents very soon regarding the full range of options for the Catholic education of their children, and to faculty and staff who wish to seek employment in an archdiocesan Catholic school, for the 2015-16 academic year.
The Archdiocese of Washington includes 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 schools in Washington, DC and the five Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.
CONTACT: Chieko Noguchi