Two Catholic Schools to be Merged with Neighboring Schools in Fall 2007

January 25, 2007

The Archdiocese of Washington today announced the outcome of a broad-based consultation process that considered the future of four Catholic elementary schools. Two of the schools will merge with neighboring Catholic schools at the end of this school year: Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Southeast Washington, DC and St. Benedict the Moor in Northeast Washington, DC.

Holy Redeemer in Northwest Washington will remain open at this time and continue to be monitored while the parish addresses significant issues, including financial support, staffing levels and academic achievement. St. Margaret of Scotland in Seat Pleasant, MD will continue in the consultation process while the parish, under the direction of its pastor, has the opportunity to develop a feasibility plan and determine whether and how the parish can sustain its school into the future. A decision about St. Margaret’s is expected in February.

“The Archdiocese of Washington is committed to providing as many children as possible with an affordable, accessible and quality Catholic education far into the future,” said Mr. Thomas Burnford, secretary for education. “We have a challenge in some areas with lower enrollment, under-used buildings and fewer financial resources to provide a quality education. The Archdiocese undertook the consultation process to assess, with the parish and school communities, the viability of the schools. We will continue to work with the schools and with the parents and staffs at the schools that will merge to help them in the transition. We have enough seats for all of the students at other schools so they may all continue receiving a quality Catholic school education.”

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl initiated the consultation process following a review of many of the Archdiocese’s 75 parochial (parish-based) elementary schools by the Catholic Schools Office and a recommendation by the Archdiocesan Administrative Board that the four schools merge with other nearby schools. The review considered enrollment trends, academic achievement, facility needs and finances. Enrollment in the schools had dropped by as much as 21 to 42 percent over the past five years while subsidies for the schools increased, reaching up to $600,000 this year.

Meetings were held in November and December 2006 with parish councils, school advisory boards, staffs and parents to solicit their input. Additional information submitted by these groups was reviewed, and the Archdiocesan Board of Education, Priests’ Council and Center City Consortium Board were consulted. After reviewing the information, Archbishop Wuerl accepted the recommendation of the Center City Consortium Board to allow the pastors of the Consortium schools, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Benedict the Moor, to consolidate those schools with others nearby.

The merging of the two schools follows nearly 10 years of investment by the Archdiocese in urban Catholic education. In 1997, the Archdiocese founded the Center City Consortium, bringing new resources, renovations and academic progress to inner city schools. Since that time the Archdiocese and donors have invested more than $52 million in 14 Consortium schools. Academic achievement has soared, with individual student growth in mathematics improving 88 percent in five years and reading, 61 percent. Despite this success, enrollment and finances have continued to be a challenge for some of the schools.

To ensure a smooth transition at the schools scheduled to merge, the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office will meet with the faculty, staff and parents at each school in early February to assist faculty and staff with applying to other Catholic schools and parents with enrolling their children in other schools. Space is available in neighboring schools for all of the students. Discussions have not been held about the future use of the buildings.

Schools involved in the consultation process:

St. Benedict the Moor School (to be merged)
320 21st Street, NE
• 145 students
• Deficit (projected, 2006-07) of $376,000
• Primary receiving school: Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, 1503 East Capitol Street, SE

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (to be merged)
1409 V Street SE (lower school) and 1604 Morris Road, SE (middle school):
• 133 students
• Deficit (projected, 2006-07) of $600,000
• Primary receiving schools: Assumption, 220 High View Place, SE and St. Thomas More, 4265 Fourth Street, SE

St. Margaret of Scotland School (consultation continuing)
410 Addison Road South, Seat Pleasant
• 150 students, a decline of 42 percent in five years
• Deficit (projected, 2006-07) of $280,000

Holy Redeemer School (will remain open and monitored)
1135 New Jersey Avenue, NW
• 224 students
• Deficit (2005-06) of $96,000; significant funds needed for building repair and necessary resources

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to 111 archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools, educating 30,000 students in Washington, DC and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland. The Archdiocese will open the Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland in Fall 2007, to provide low- and moderate-income students with an affordable, college-preparatory education.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]