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January 16, 2009


Students will attend Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish Elementary School in Swarthmore

Reverend Louis J. Kolenkiewicz, Parochial Administrator of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Milmont Park, Delaware County, announced at Masses this past weekend that the recommendation to close the parish elementary school at the end of the 2008-2009 school year has been accepted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. The pastor informed faculty members and school families this weekend as well. The school will close in June 2009.

"I am aware of the sadness that this decision will bring to many," said Father Kolenkiewicz. "The decision to close the school, although most difficult, is unfortunately necessary. Despite the best efforts and good intentions of many committed people and after several years of uncertainty, it is time to make the responsible decision to do all that we can to ensure that our children receive the best Catholic education possible."

Students from Our Lady of Peace Parish School will attend Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish School in Swarthmore, located less than two miles from Our Lady of Peace Parish School, beginning in September 2009. Notre Dame de Lourdes was selected following a survey conducted in 2008 where most parents said that Notre Dame de Lourdes was the parish school where they would most likely send their children.

The decision to close Our Lady of Peace School was based on drastically declining enrollment. In 2000-2001 enrollment was 262. In 2003-2004 it was 227. In this 2008-2009 school year the enrollment is 121 (pre-k through 8th). There are 81 students in grades 1 through 8 with just 4 students in the third grade. This steep decline has required that parents pay tuition of $3,700, which is the highest tuition among parishes in the region. Despite continued efforts from leadership of both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Our Lady of Peace Parish, parish officials recognized that sustaining the school was not a tenable option.

In accepting the recommendation for closure Cardinal Rigali said, "I understand this is a very painful time for the school community of Our Lady of Peace and that the past several years have brought uncertainty about the future. This school has a long and proud tradition of providing Catholic education to thousands of families. It is never easy to make a change of this nature and I recognize that no one wants to see a parish school close. I am grateful to all of those involved who were so supportive of Our Lady of Peace Parish School and pray that they find comfort in their faith during this time of transition."

Cardinal Rigali also expressed his gratitude to the parochial administrator and all of those who spent so much time and effort working on behalf of the parish and school. "I am grateful for the leadership of Father Kolenkiewicz and Father George A. Majoros, Regional Vicar for Delaware County, and their unwavering commitment to determine the best possible outcome for the Our Lady of Peace Parish community, for the school families and most of all for the young people of the school and their future education. I also express my gratitude to Sr. M. Denise Clifford, SSJ, Principal of Our Lady of Peace Parish School, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and the lay faculty for their dedication to Our Lady of Peace School and the students in their care. I know that the Office of Catholic Education will do everything possible to ensure that the transition during the coming months is as smooth as possible and that the spiritual and academic needs of our young people remain at the forefront of all planning."

The Archdiocese began working with parish leaders several years ago when enrollment numbers began to indicate that the school's closing was likely. Last year, the parish requested permission for the school to reopen in September 2008 if the enrollment reached 132 students, the same as the previous year. In March 2008, the school reported an enrollment of 128 with the possible registration of two more students. Although short of the goal, Cardinal Rigali gave approval for the school to remain open for the school year 2008-2009. This decision was for the 2008-2009 school year only. Going forward, further review would be necessary in determining the school's future viability.

In the fall of 2008, Father Kolenkiewicz met with the parents of the school children, to apprise them of the current status of the school. At that time, he indicated that he could not foresee the school continuing beyond this current academic year. In December 2008, Father Kolenkiewicz sought permission for the school's closure at the end of the current year. Cardinal Rigali accepted the recommendation in January 2009.

Father Kolenkiewicz said, "I fully intend to work with the parish organizations to formulate plans so that we can fittingly celebrate and express gratitude for the great blessing which the school has been to this parish, the dedicated ministry of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the wonderful lay teachers who have served our school and to recognize the generosity of our parishioners and school parents who sacrificed so much for so many years to support the school."

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Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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