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January 27, 2004


Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has approved the recommendation to close Saint Joseph Parish Elementary School located at 7631 Waters Road in Cheltenham, Montgomery County in June 2004 based upon a recommendation from the Parish Steering Committee. The Parish Steering Committee recommended the closure after a school study showed a declining number of parish children enrolled in the school, decreasing numbers of infant baptisms and increasing costs that put a tremendous financial burden on the parish. The study also showed that the school is unable to enhance its programs and does not have individual art, music or physical education teachers because tuition income does not cover more than basic expenses. Students from Saint Joseph Parish Elementary School will be welcomed at nearby Presentation B.V.M.(Cheltenham) and Saint James (Elkins Park) Parish Elementary Schools.

Reverend William S. Harrison, Pastor of Saint Joseph Parish, announced the closure to the parish community at weekend masses (January 24-25th) and to the school community today. Cardinal Rigali accepted the closure recommendation in January 2004. "I understand and appreciate the strong attachment the faculty, families and students of Saint Joseph have for their school and know this closure causes much sadness. I am sensitive to that feeling of loss whenever it is necessary to close a parish elementary school. I pray that those affected find comfort in their faith in Jesus Christ and in knowing that the nearby schools will provide a gracious welcome and a quality education for the children of Saint Joseph's. I am deeply grateful to Monsignor Marine, to Father Harrison and to all those who worked so hard on the process, in order to do the right thing. Their efforts are most appreciated."

A fall 2003 school study showed that only 51 of the 190 students enrolled in the school are from Saint Joseph Parish and on average only three to four baptisms are celebrated in the parish each year. Tuition covers two-thirds of the actual cost of educating each student. Saint Joseph Parish has examined the viability of maintaining its own school since approximately 1997 when the parish began experiencing financial difficulties due to dramatically increasing school expenses. At that time school enrollment was declining and parish enrollment was also decreasing due to changing demographics. While the pastor, the parish council and the home and school association attempted to boost school population and find new sources of revenue, an overriding concern for the parish and its future remained.

After broad consultation with the parish and school communities and a review of parish and school finances, facility needs, projected enrollment, ability to pay the full cost of education and the overall education program, the Parish Steering Committee recommended the school closure in December 2003. The majority of the Parish Steering Committee signed the document sent to Cardinal Rigali but some members said while they understood the recommendation they could not bring themselves to actually sign the document because of their "personal attachment to the school." They informed the Cardinal, however, that if he approved the recommendation they will accept it and work with the other members of the parish to enhance the life of the Catholic community of Saint Joseph and to continue the Catholic education of the children.

Editor's Note: For more information, please see the attached news release on the specifics of the closure of Saint Joseph Parish Elementary School.

Donna Farrell
Broadcast and Media Specialist

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