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January 16, 2007

TWO PARISH SCHOOLS TO CLOSE
SAINT CASIMIR SCHOOL IN SOUTH PHILADELPHIA AND
SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO SCHOOL IN DELAWARE COUNTY WILL CLOSE IN JUNE 2007

Reverend Peter Burkauskas, Pastor of Saint Casimir Parish, and Reverend Roland Slobogin, Pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, announced at Masses this past weekend that recommendations to close each of these parishes schools have been accepted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. The pastors informed faculty members on Friday, January 12, 2007 and school families were also informed this weekend. Both schools will close at the end of the 2006-2007 school year. The recommendation to close Saint Casimir School was made by the Pastor, in consultation with the Parish Council and Finance Committee. The recommendation to close Saint Charles Borromeo School was made by the Saint Charles Borromeo School Study Group, made up of the Pastor, principal and representatives of parish and school committees with consultation and support of the Pastoral Council and Finance Committee.

Saint Casimir Parish School, 324 Wharton Street, South Philadelphia
Saint Casimir Parish School has an enrollment of 99 students, grades kindergarten through eighth. The school, founded 100 years ago to serve the educational needs of Lithuanian immigrants, has been struggling for a number of years because of low enrollment and financial difficulties. Because of the small number of students, the third and fourth grades are combined in one classroom. There are only five children in the kindergarten class and only the eighth grade has more than 15 students. In recent years, financial difficulties have reached a critical state. Saint Casimir Parish has been forced to not only spend down all of its parish assets but also to begin borrowing against the future sale of its convent building. The school was blessed with a benefactor who contributed over $200,000 to the school operating account to assist the school in reaching its 100th anniversary. At present, Saint Casimir School's budget has a projected $300,000 deficit at the close of the current school year.

For the past two years, the parish has been continually making parishioners and school families aware of the dire financial situation of the school. On December 4, 2006, the pastor met with the Parish Council and Finance Committee to apprise them of the current situation. After much discussion, the decision was made that the parish could no longer afford to operate a school and that Cardinal Rigali should be asked for permission to close the school at the end of the 2006-2007 school year.

Saint Charles Borromeo Parish School, 3400 Dennison Avenue, Drexel Hill, Delaware County
Saint Charles Borromeo School has seen a dramatic decline in enrollment and increase in costs. Enrollment in the school has decreased from 414 students in 2000-2001 to 144 students in 2006-2007. Demographic data suggest enrollment would drop even more in the future. Baptisms in the parish have decreased from 123 in 1995 to 49 in 2005. Kindergarten was discontinued this year because of the low number of students who registered. The cost to operate the school is putting the parish stability at risk with the parish facing a projected deficit of $470,000 by the end of the current school year. If Saint Charles Borromeo School were to be open for another year, the parish projected a deficit of more than $800,000.

A tuition assistance endowment fund, established in 1998, will continue to assist the families of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish students who enroll in other parish elementary schools.

In February 2004, Saint Charles Borromeo Parish held a meeting with school families to inform them of the declining enrollment and many challenges to the financial stability of the parish school. Between that time and March 2006, strains continued on the parish finances and enrollment dropped dramatically. Committees were established in March 2006 and members worked hard to increase enrollment, which at the time was 207 students. When school opened in September 2006, however, enrollment had dropped by another 58 students. Projected enrollment for 2007-2008 was only 120 students. In a letter to parents on December 4, 2006, Father Slobogin wrote, "Prayer, dialogue and reflection have assisted us in arriving at a painful yet necessary recommendation to Cardinal Rigali. The School Study Group of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish will recommend to the Archbishop that our school close in June 2007."

In accepting the recommendation to close these two schools. Cardinal Rigali said, "I know that this is a very painful time for these school communities. Each school has a long and proud tradition of providing Catholic education to our families and has formed thousands of children in the faith. I also recognize the great difficulties faced by both schools in recent years and I express my gratitude to Father Slobogin and Father Burkauskas, the principals, Sister Irene Loretta, I.H.M. and Mrs. Angelina Clair, and faculty, as well as the many lay people who have worked so hard to keep these schools open as long as possible.

The following months will be difficult and I have asked the Office of Catholic Education to do everything possible to assist our teachers, school families and students during the transition. I pray that the Lord Jesus will comfort all of those who are experiencing the sadness of knowing their school will close. It is my hope that the special spirit that infused these schools will be carried with the students of Saint Casimir School and Saint Charles Borromeo School as they join the communities of other Catholic schools."

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Donna Farrell
Director of Communications
215-587-3747

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