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October 8, 2009

Schools to Close at the Completion of 2009-2010 School Year

PHILADELPHIA, PA, October 8, 2009 ---- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia today announced that Cardinal Dougherty High School and Northeast Catholic High School for Boys will close at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 school year (June 2010). The Office of Catholic Education, in consultation with the Board of Education of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, prepared a recommendation, based on a comprehensive study, to close the two schools. That recommendation was recently accepted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Earlier today, the Office of Catholic Education informed faculty and staff, as well as families of students at the two schools, about the closures.

"I understand the deep emotions that may be felt by the communities of both Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic upon hearing this news," said Cardinal Rigali. "This difficult decision was made after much prayer, study and reflection, so that our schools remain strong in their Catholic identity, continue to offer a superior academic program, and remain affordable and accessible to all families. I will keep all of those affected by these closures in my prayers. May they find comfort in their faith during this time of transition."

According to Dr. Richard McCarron, Secretary for Catholic Education, this painful but necessary decision was shaped by conclusions made in a comprehensive examination of current and projected enrollments, future ability to provide a quality academic program, regional demographic trends, building capacity and the finances of the individual Archdiocesan high schools. "The challenges we are experiencing here in Philadelphia are mirrored by dioceses all over the country," explained Dr. McCarron. "We are faced with rising costs to maintain the overhead of large, older schools that simply are not operating close to their capacities." Dr. McCarron emphasized that this solution will enable the Archdiocese to continue to provide a superior spiritual and academic education to students. Dr. McCarron warned that, without action, declining enrollment would accelerate tuition increases and compromise the overall quality of Philadelphia's Catholic education system.

"With the hope of enrolling the current Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic students in the remaining nearby Archdiocesan high schools, we can not only retain, but improve, the quality of the educational experience for all of our students. A healthy enrollment opens the doors to stronger faith formation programs, more competitive academics, improved extra-curricular activities, and an enhanced social environment for all of our students," said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden.

Cardinal Dougherty High School, 6301 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120
The recommendation to close Cardinal Dougherty High School was related to a steady decline in the school's enrollment. Over the last ten years, Cardinal Dougherty's enrollment has declined by more than 43 percent and is projected to decline by an additional 34 percent over the next three years. Cardinal Dougherty's physical plant is the third largest of all the Archdiocesan high schools, and would have an inordinate capacity even for the projected enrollment in the entire region. Enrollment is currently at 642 students and the school's capacity is currently rated for more than 2,000 students. The school had a peak enrollment of 5,944 students in 1965.

Cardinal Dougherty students will be welcomed by several nearby Archdiocesan high schools which are accessible by public transportation.

Northeast Catholic High School for Boys, 1842 Torresdale Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19124
Since the year 1999-2000, Northeast Catholic has also experienced a steady decline in enrollment, dropping 29 percent in the last ten years, it is projected to drop by an additional 24 percent over the next three years. Enrollment is currently at 551 students and the school has a capacity of 1,700 students. The peak enrollment for Northeast Catholic was 4,410 students in 1953. Despite every effort by the school and its alumni to increase enrollment, broaden fundraising and market the school, enrollment continues to plummet each year.

Northeast Catholic students will be welcomed at several nearby Archdiocesan schools which are accessible by public transportation.

"It is with a heavy heart that I accepted the recommendation to close Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic high schools. I believe that these changes are essential for us to provide the best academic and spiritual program for all students and to ensure the long-term Mission of providing Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I recognize the feelings of loss," said Cardinal Rigali. "I express my deep appreciation to our school families who sacrifice to send their young people to our Catholic schools.

I am also deeply grateful to the faculty, staff, administration, and men and women religious, who have served the Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic school communities, for their dedication to the young people in their care for these many years."

The archdiocesan education announcement, parent letters and updates from the Office of Catholic Education can be viewed by visiting

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Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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