WAPAKONETA ‚?? Ending a difficult few years, including declining enrollments, a vigil to keep the school open and a new teaching philosophy, St. Joseph Catholic School will likely close its doors.
The Rev. Patrick Sloneker said ‚??anything could happen,‚?Ě but it is likely the school will either close this year or after next school year.
‚??It is with great sorrow that St. Joseph Parish faces this most difficult decision, particularly in light of the presence of Christ and his abundant blessings that St. Joseph School has been for over 150 years,‚?Ě he said in a press release Friday.
The Pastoral Council will meet June 17 and likely make a final recommendation to Sloneker, who will then take it to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Archbishop is likely to accept the recommendation, he said. When the school would close is unknown.
‚??We will meet with teachers and parents over the next two weeks to find out where they are,‚?Ě he said. ‚??This is a complex process.‚?Ě
Following a study by Strategic Leadership Associates in Dayton, involving a committee, parish-wide survey and focus group meetings, Sloneker said ‚??it is becoming apparent‚?Ě that the school must close.
The church requested the school be closed in 2008, but the archdiocese ruled it would remain open. Instead, the archdiocese conducted a study of the school‚??s finances and a new multi-age teaching philosophy started. That teaching continues.
Enrollment had been declining at the school, dropping more than 100 in the last seven years. It was around 50 this year and last year, a drop from 79.
Enrollment, along with a smaller pool of available pupils, increasing costs in a depressed economy, changing parental values and poor pastoral leadership are all contributing factors, Sloneker said. Sloneker, who came to the church this year, declined to comment further about the ‚??poor pastoral leadership.‚?Ě
Sloneker is hopeful the school can remain open next school year.
‚??So that our community can begin to celebrate and commemorate its rich legacy with dignity and respect,‚?Ě he said.
St. Joseph Catholic School has been in existence since the 1850s. The current building off state Route 501 was built in 1959 as a high school. The high school closed in 1974 and the elementary school moved in.