Bookmark and Share

February 20, 2006


Reverend Joseph M. McDermott, Parochial Administrator of Saint John the Baptist Parish in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia, announced at masses this past weekend that Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has accepted the recommendation to close Saint John the Baptist Parish Elementary School (119 Rector Street) at the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

The recommendation was made as a result of dramatically decreasing enrollment and escalating expenses. Enrollment currently is 205 students while the budget for the school year was based upon enrollment of a planned 225 students. Pre-enrollment for next year indicates that only 134 students plan to return. At that level of enrollment, the cost to educate each student would rise to approximately $6,000. Tuition is currently $2,940 (an increase of $500 from last year) and a tuition increase of up to $600 (or more) would be necessary for the school to continue.

The enrollment and fiscal situation of the school are jeopardizing Saint John the Baptist Parish. Because of unexpected heating repair expenses at the school ($40,000), the decrease in enrollment and a decline in parish giving, the parish will have to borrow approximately $100,000 this year in order to pay teachers' salaries and other school related expenses. A deficit of more than $300,000 was projected for next year if the school remained open. Saint John the Baptist Parish also has a debt to the Archdiocese which was $491,000 as of June 2005.

While it is clear that Saint John the Baptist Parish Elementary School needs to close, it is important to recognize and pay tribute to the rich history of this Catholic school in educating the students of Manayunk in their Catholic faith. This was the first school in the Archdiocese staffed by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Father McDermott expresses his deep appreciation for their dedication to Saint John the Baptist Parish Elementary School.

Saint John the Baptist Parish will continue to provide pastoral and sacramental care for the children of the parish even as they attend other schools. The parish and the Archdiocese will also work closely with school families to assist with the transition for the school students. A School Placement Survey is being provided to school families to ask which of the following schools they would prefer: Holy Child Catholic School in Manayunk; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Elementary School in Andorra; Our Mother of Consolation Parish Elementary School in Chestnut Hill; St. Bridget Parish Elementary School in East Falls or St. Philip Neri Parish Elementary School in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County.

An Open House to meet the representatives from those schools will be held at Saint John the Baptist Parish Hall on Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 7:30 p.m.

In Spring 2003, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua granted permission for Holy Family Parish, Saint Lucy Parish, Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish, Saint Josaphat Parish and Saint John the Baptist Parish to begin a feasibility study for the restructuring of the five parish elementary schools in Manayunk. During the first two years of the feasibility study, there was no consensus regarding the future and considerable resistance to any restructuring.

In January 2005, Cardinal Justin Rigali accepted a revised Manayunk plan in which Holy Family School, Saint Lucy School and Saint Mary of the Assumption School would close at the end of the 2004-2005 school year. A regional school, called Holy Child School, would open in September 2005. At the same time, Cardinal Rigali accepted the request of the Pastors, Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Councils of Saint Josaphat Parish and Saint John the Baptist Parish that their respective parish elementary schools would remain open as individual parish elementary schools, without the financial assistance of the Archdiocese.

By March 2005, it became clear to the Pastor of Saint Josaphat Parish and his Councils that there would not be sufficient enrollment to open the 2005-2006 school year. The Pastor requested and received permission for his school to close in June 2005. Most of the children from Saint Josaphat Parish enrolled at Holy Child School.

Saint John the Baptist Parish Elementary School opened the 2005-2006 school year with an enrollment of 208 students (now decreased to 205) which was an enrollment below the budgeted figure of 225 students. In December 2005, the previous Pastor, Reverend Louis Bier, met with his Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils to review all current parish and school finances and projected enrollment. Father Bier then met with a group of school families in early January 2006.

On January 26, 2006, the same group of school families met with the newly appointed Parochial Administrator, Father McDermott, along with the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils, at which time the school parents offered a proposed business plan.

Father McDermott acknowledges the work that went into developing the plan and is appreciative of the commitment of the parents who dedicated themselves to this task. A thorough review determined that the proposed business plan does not meet Archdiocesan guidelines for the operation of a parish elementary school.

Based upon an examination of all relevant information and in consultation with the Archdiocese, the recommendation was made that Saint John the Baptist Parish Elementary School close at the end of the current school year.


Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

Back to Top