By Denise Dick
Four years after merging two schools in the township because of declining enrollment, the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown is closing that school for the same reason.
“Given the limitation of finances and low enrollment, we had to face the reality that the numbers needed to operate the school simply are not there,” said a letter sent home Friday to parents of students at St. Joseph/Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
It’s signed by Superintendent Nicholas Wolsonovich; Lois Cavucci, president of Lumen Christi, the diocese’s system of kindergarten through eighth-grade schools; Monsignor Kenneth Miller and the Rev. Gregory Fedor, pastors of Immaculate Heart and St. Joseph, respectively.
The school will close at the end of this school year.
“It’s hard when a school closes,” said Randy Rair, assistant superintendent. “People care very much about the school and the teachers.”
Teachers were notified Friday at a meeting.
Rair said about 120 students attend the school this year, but fewer than 100 are registered for next year. About 15 teachers are employed there.
“It was tough with the teachers today because they care so much about the place and care so much about the kids,” he said.
Three of Molly Faloon’s four children attend the school, and the fourth is a student at Ursuline High School. One of the SJIHM students who is in eighth grade this year, will go to Ursuline next year. The other two will attend St. Charles in Boardman.
“We were saddened by the news but not surprised by it,” Faloon said. “We had a backup plan.”
She knew enrollment was down.
Faloon attended Youngs-town Diocese schools for 12 years, and her husband attended for nine years. A Catholic education is important to their family.
St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary schools merged in the 2009-10 school year.
But for next school year, only 21 students in kindergarten through second grade were registered to attend the merged school, the letter says.
“This is particularly troublesome as we need to build SJIHM from the lower grades to have any potential future,” it said.
Families of SJIHM students who attend other schools within the Lumen Christi system next year will receive a $500 scholarship per child up to $1,000 per family.
If the new school’s tuition is higher than SJIHM’s, the new school will honor the SJIHM tuition for the 2014-15 school year.
Other Lumen Christi schools are St. Christine in Youngstown, St. Charles in Boardman, St. Patrick in Hubbard, Holy Family in Poland and St. Nicholas in Struthers.