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March 26, 2010

St. James Parish School and Holy Martyrs Parish School to Close in June 2010

Reverend J. Thomas Heron, Pastor at St. James Parish in Elkins Park, Montgomery County, and Reverend Michael J. Ryan, Pastor at Holy Martyrs Parish in Oreland, Montgomery County, announced recently the recommendations to close their respective parish schools have been accepted by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. St. James Parish School and Holy Martyrs Parish School will close at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

In accepting the recommendations, Cardinal Rigali said, "We always struggle with the decision to close any of our parish schools, especially schools like St. James and Holy Martyrs that have such rich histories of providing their communities with an affordable Catholic education. It is my hope that the special spirit that infused these two schools will be carried with the students as they join the communities of other local Catholic schools. I extend my gratitude to Fr. Heron, Fr. Ryan, and the dedicated administrators and faculties of both schools, as they help our students and families through this time of transition."

St. James Parish School:
Fr. Heron, in consultation with the St. James Parish Council and Finance Council, made a recommendation to close the parish school due to declining enrollment and increasing costs. St. James Parish School's enrollment has decreased by more than 320% over a 10-year period -- from 253 in 2000-2001 to 60 students registered for the 2010-2011 school year. Without action, the parish was projected to incur significant debt, as the financial resources it generates were insufficient to cover the school subsidies. Currently, 95% of the parish's income is used to support St. James Parish School. The St. James Early Childhood Center will remain open for kindergartners and children ages 3 and 4.

"With our current and projected enrollment, it became clear that our school was not going to be able to continue to offer the quality of education that our parishioners have come to expect," said Fr. Heron. "That is why with a heavy heart I recommended the closing of St. James Parish School to Cardinal Rigali. I am confident that our surrounding parish schools will be able to offer our parishioners' children the values based education they have come to expect. Great gratitude is offered to the current faculty, staff and administration of Saint James Parish School. I know of the many sacrifices and efforts that went into providing an exceptional spiritual and academic program over the years as well as the many recent efforts to keep the school open in the future."

Neighboring parish schools, including Presentation BVM in Cheltenham, St. Hilary of Poitiers in Rydal and Immaculate Conception in Jenkintown, will be prepared to accept students from St. James beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.

Holy Martyrs Parish School:
In November of 2009, Fr. Ryan formed a steering committee to analyze the sustainability of Holy Martyrs Parish School. An analysis of support concluded that the parish as a whole was overwhelmingly in favor of supporting the school both financially and spiritually, but the financial burden was becoming more and more difficult to sustain. With 82 students registered for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year, the committee was faced with the need to substantially increase tuition and cut operating costs in order to prevent going into further debt. At the end of March, the difficult decision was made to recommend to Cardinal Rigali to close the school.

"This decision to close Holy Martyrs Parish School is extremely painful but one that has been made with prayerful and thoughtful consideration. I want to thank the dedicated faculty, staff and administration who have devoted themselves to educating the children of Holy Martyrs Parish School for so many years," said Father Ryan. "I am also grateful to the surrounding schools that will be opening their doors to our students in the fall of 2010. We are sad that our school is closing but our parish remains vibrant, currently offering 40 ministries and faith formation programs."

Holy Martyrs Early Childhood Education Program, in operation for more than 15 years in an adjacent building, will remain open. The Preschool has both a 3 and 4 year old program, and runs at full capacity each year. Not all nearby parishes have a program for 3 and 4 year old children, and the Preschool does not need financial support from Holy Martyrs Parish. With these factors in mind, the administration felt that it was important to keep the Preschool open.

Nearby parish communities of St. Genevieve in Flourtown, Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill, St. Philip Neri in Lafayette Hill and Luke the Evangelist in Glenside, Good Shepherd Regional Catholic School (currently Queen of Peace in Ardsley and St. John of the Cross in Roslyn ), St. Alphonsus in Maple Glen and St. Anthony - St. Joseph in Ambler have kindly offered to Holy Martyrs students that they visit and consider enrolling in their schools.

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Meredith Wilson
Communications Specialist

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