The closing of the school ends a family tradition that spanned 50 years.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- Nearly 100 children gathered in the Sts. Peter and Paul School auditorium for a final awards ceremony before the Belvedere Avenue school closed for good Tuesday.
Choking up at times, the principal, Sister Margaret Mary, Order of St. Benedict, addressed the children and passed out honors.
"We're all sad this is the last time we'll pass out awards," she said. "I'll always remember your uniforms. You always look regal in your uniforms."
The children received awards for perfect attendance and academic excellence and leadership and volunteer roles in the school.
Rayvion Sanford and Aris Rice, who completed eighth grade at Sts. Peter and Paul this year, received the Patriots Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars for essays written about what their country means to them.
Sanford also received the President's Education Award for an A average in grades four through eight; she received a pin and a letter from President Bush.
Both girls plan to attend Warren G. Harding High School in the fall. "We're going together; we're best friends," Rice said.
Bob Reich, a trustee and officer with the Knights of Columbus 620, presented pupil Ashlee Vines with an Excellence in Religion award for exemplifying her religion in her life.
"We hope you all continue your Catholic education and keep religion and Christianity an important part of your life," he said.
Devoted to the end
Teachers, parents and pupils were all sad the school, which opened in 1955, was closing.
"It's a nice school, I'm sad it's closing," Sanford said.
Babette Sisler is a parishioner and graduate of the class of '86; her daughter was a third grader at the school.
"I've worked with Sister Margaret Mary since I was a child; this is such a tragedy," she said. "The things we've been taught will be with us forever."
Anesa Loya had two children in preschool and second grade. "I've been very happy; you couldn't ask for better teachers," she said.
Florence DeCaris taught "everything except physical education," including French, Spanish, and Italian, at Sts. Peter and Paul for 43 years.
"I've been in every room," she said. "I hope now to teach part time, and maybe tutor."
Sister Agnes, OSB, taught religion at the school for 40 years and said the school is a family tradition.
"We're teaching our children's children's children," she said. "The seeds we've planted will be here for years."
Sisters Margaret Mary and Agnes agreed the economy and people moving to find jobs contributed to the lack of funds and insufficient enrollment that forced the school to close.
Sisler, however, said she didn't think the school had to close.
"The parish is looking to direct their ministries elsewhere," she said.
Sts. Peter and Paul opened in 1955 with 72 pupils. Enrollment was 107 in the pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, but only 65 students were registered for the 2005-06 school year.
"The parish advisory council wanted us to have at least 100," Sr. Margaret Mary said.
Twelve teachers worked at Sts. Peter and Paul, but Sr. Margaret Mary was unsure whether any of them had new employment lined up.