[Updated 4:45 p.m., Jan. 6]
Early this afternoon, Jan. 6, the Blue Ribbon Commission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia presented its strategic plan for Catholic schools sustainability in the region.
The commission presented its plan to parish pastors and school presidents and principals of the 156 elementary schools in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, as well as regional high schools, under the management of the archdiocese.
The commission was expected to announce school closures and mergers.
According to a philly.com report, in Abington is set to merge with St. David School in Willow Grove, Upper Moreland. Students from the Students from Our Lady Help of Christians will be expected to attend classes at the St. David School location.
According to Sister Angela Joseph, principal of St. David School, in another , the merge is expected to occur for the following scholastic year. The schools are less than three miles apart from one another.
St. David School’s kindergarten through eighth grade classes currently enrolls 240 students.
The Our Lady Help of Christian's school’s website lists 16 members in its faculty, with a student ratio of 1:18.
[Updated 4:55 p.m.] According to Sister Angela Joseph, who attended today's meeting at Neuman University, the tone of the meeting tried to remain positive in face of difficult decisions.
"For those schools that will close, it will be very sad and difficult, but the commission did what needed to be done," Sister Angela Joseph said. "They need our support. We all need to move forward. With God's help it will work."
The Our Lady Help of Christian's School principal was reached, but had no comment at this time.
Other mergers of local Catholic schools in Montgomery County, mentioned in the Philly.com report include St. Anthony-St. Joseph in Ambler and St. Catherine of Siena in Horsham will merge with St. Alphonsus at its Maple Glen site.
The archdiocese will on its website at 4 p.m. today, explaining more about the Blue Ribbon Comission's recomendations.
[Updated 4:45 p.m., Jan. 6]
At the press conference, members of the commission announced that 44 elementary schools and 4 high schools in the region will close or merge with other Catholic schools.
With this decision, the number of elementary Catholic schools will decrease from 156 to 112, which will be comprised of 63 single parish schools, and 49 newly-partnered regional schools.
According to the commission's chairman Jack Quindlen, the 37-page report outlines the reasons for decline and the commissions responsive stratgey.
Quindlen said that the closings and mergers were just one part of the commission's plan to strengthen remaining schools and cultivate their growth.
According to H. Edward Hanaway, a member of the commission, who spoke at the press conference, enrollment for archdiocese schools has gone down 72 percent since 1961, from over 200,000 students to 68,000.
Hanaway said, among the contributing factors for the downed enrollment were other options, including charter schools, the cost of tuition, as well as a decline in parish membership.
Hanaway was also confident that the long-term archdiocese stratigic plan for its schools will ultimately promote stability and growth for Catholic education in the Philadelphia region.
"It is our belief that this plan will achieve an elementary school structure that is accesable, affordable and can be sustained," Hanaway said. "One that will provide all the elements of a high-quality, Catholic elementary education and one that will be fully competative and enable our enrollments to grow."