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March 5, 2009


Students invited to attend St. Matthew Parish School or St. Dominic Parish School

Reverend Joseph N. Accardi, Pastor of St. Bernard Parish (Berr-nurd) in Northeast Philadelphia, today announced that the recommendation to close St. Bernard Parish Elementary School in June 2009 has been accepted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. The pastor recently informed St. Bernard parishioners, faculty members and school families that the school will close at the completion of the 2008-09 school year.

"I know that this is extremely painful news for the St. Bernard Parish community," said Father Accardi. "This is not a decision made lightly, it is a decision made responsibly, with vision for the long term so that all children of St. Bernard Parish may continue to receive the highest-quality Catholic education."

Beginning in September 2009, current students from St. Bernard Parish School may attend St. Matthew Parish School at 3040 Cottman Avenue, or St. Dominic Parish School, located at 8510 Frankford Avenue. St. Matthew Parish School is located approximately one mile northwest from St. Bernard Parish, while St. Dominic Parish School is about 1.5 miles northeast from St. Bernard Parish.

The recommendation to close St. Bernard Parish School was rooted in concern over the financial outlook of the parish, which has experienced sharp decline in Mass attendance, administering of sacraments and school enrollment. Among an estimated 585 school-age children that live in St. Bernard Parish, only 34% of these children were enrolled in the parish school during the 2007-08 school year. In 2006, the enrollment at St. Bernard Parish School was 308. In 2007, the enrollment declined to 258 students. This year the enrollment was 202. The forecasted student enrollment for the 2009-2010 school year at St. Bernard Parish School was 177. As a result of this rapid enrollment decrease of more than 40% over three years, the cost of educating each student dramatically ascended from $3,215 per student in 2006-07 to a projected $4,239 per student in 2009-10. Despite continued efforts from leadership of both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and St. Bernard Parish, parish leaders recognized that sustaining the school was not a tenable option.

In accepting the recommendation for closure Cardinal Rigali said, "I recognize how difficult this decision will be for the St. Bernard Parish community. No one ever wants to see one of our parish schools close. This decision was made with much prayer and consideration for the needs of the parish and the school community. I will keep St. Bernard Parish community close in mind and pray that they find comfort in their faith during this time of transition."

Cardinal Rigali also expressed his gratitude to the pastor and all of those who spent so much time and effort working on behalf of the parish and school. "I thank Father Accardi and Father Joseph Logrip, Regional Vicar for Philadelphia North, for their leadership, strength and determination in recommending the best long-term plan for the St. Bernard Parish community. I also express my gratitude to Mrs. Elaine McDowell, Principal of St. Bernard Parish School, and the faculty and staff for their dedication to the students in their care. We will do everything possible to ensure the smooth transition for St. Bernard's young people and that their spiritual and academic needs remain the first priority."

In the December 2008, Father Accardi and Ms. Mary E. Rochford, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, met with the parents of St. Bernard Parish School students to apprise them of the current status of the school. At that time, Father Accardi and Ms. Rochford indicated that there were serious concerns regarding the school's viability beyond the 2008-09 academic year. Father Accardi sought permission for the school's closure at the end of the current year from Cardinal Rigali, who accepted the recommendation in February 2009.

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Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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