St. Bernard School in Riverdale Park to Become a Middle School

March 17, 2006

St. Bernard School in Riverdale Park, Maryland will be transformed from a full elementary school into a middle school serving grades 5-8, in Fall 2006. It will be the only parish-based middle school in the Archdiocese of Washington and the third Catholic middle-school in the region. The college-prep middle school will have a special emphasis on math and the language arts, and a strong English as a Second Language (ESOL) program. Ms. Deborah McFarland will continue to serve as principal.

The decision to create a middle school was made after enrollment trends showed strong interest in the upper grades, but declines in the lower school. Enrollment has dropped by 47 percent over the past five years, from 244 to 129 students. Just 35 students currently in grades K-3 will be affected by the change, and will be assisted in enrolling at three nearby Catholic schools: St. Jerome, Hyattsville; St. Mark, Hyattsville; and St. Mary, Landover Hills.

“St. Bernard’s has and will continue to be an important part of the Riverdale Park community. This new model will allow the school to focus on reaching young people during some very critical years in development. We will be working closely with St. Bernard’s principal and faculty in developing the curriculum, and with the younger students’ families to ensure a smooth transition for them,” said Dr. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, superintendent for Catholic schools, in making the announcement.

“I am going to miss our younger students,” said Deborah McFarland, principal, “but I also see the great challenges facing middle school students today. I am really looking forward to the opportunity to develop new approaches to serving these young people and preparing them for high school.”

Other Catholic middle schools include Washington Jesuit Academy and San Miguel School. Both are boys schools operated by religious orders. St. Bernard Middle School will be co-ed. The school is located at 5811 Riverdale Road.

The Archdiocese of Washington includes 560,000 Catholics, 140 parishes and nearly 33,000 students attending 112 early learning, elementary and secondary schools in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]