Roslindale Catholic school to close

Despite the hard work of parents and staff to increase enrollment at St. Andrew the Apostle School in Roslindale, officials at the parochial elementary school announced the school will close at the end of the academic year, according to a statement issued June 7.

Parents came together in December, when they discovered the school was in danger, to form a committee and begin a marketing campaign, said Maryfran Hughes, a mother of four whose children all attended St. Andrew. They planned open houses, hung fliers and advertised in newspapers.

Hughes, a member of the school board and alumna, said the school tried to be “a more visible presence in the community.”

"This was parents, principal, teachers, pastor -- everybody working together," she said. "It was definitely a total team effort."

By the middle of March, it looked like the school would nearly reach its goal of 180 students, said Hughes.

"We really felt at that moment and time in March, we probably could assure 170 students for the next year," she added.

Hughes, whose daughter became her third child to graduate from St. Andrew’s at commencement this year, still had a son who attended the school and turned down his acceptance at another Catholic school.

By the time the down payment was due on May 16, it was obvious that St. Andrew’s would not reach its goal. As of last week, only 80 students were enrolled, she said.

"The decision was made based on what was best for the children," said Hughes. "A school that only has 80 children, aside from the financial issues it presents, certainly presents one of not as much vitality for the children," she added.

St. Andrew’s, along with Sacred Heart School, are both schools at Sacred Heart Parish in Roslindale. St. Andrew Parish was suppressed in 2001 before the wider reconfiguration plan began, and the school became part of Sacred Heart.

"It's what you do if you're a church," said the pastor at Sacred Heart, Msgr. Francis H. Kelley. "It's been a struggle, and I just had hoped we could keep both of them going."

But the enrollment at St. Andrew’s has declined steadily each year, he said. It was 220 in 2002, 191 in 2003 and 171 in 2004.

Msgr. Kelley said he told parents in December that enrollment needed to increase for the school to continue so that he could pay teachers and cover other costs.

"That would provide us with sufficient income to maintain the school as it has been," he said.

Sister Kathleen Carr, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese has worked hard to address the school’s challenges, said Father Kelley.

"It's always very sad when one of the Catholic parish schools is facing many challenges, resulting in the decision to close the school," said Sister Kathleen.

She added that the “good news” is that Msgr. Kelley can accommodate students at Sacred Heart School. The Catholic School Office will also assist teachers through the transition by placing them on a priority list for jobs, which has been “very successful” in the past.

Hughes said she appreciated the pastoral way Msgr. Kelley has led the effort.

"I'll be forever grateful that I'm in a parish where the pastor was willing to work with us, to bring us along and to be as honest, respectful and compassionate of us in this process," she said. "That made all the difference in the world to me."

Hughes added that she would miss the sense of community at St. Andrew, which includes both students and parents.

"It's a small school, but it's a school where each child can really grow to their own potential," she said. "The teachers, the principal and everybody finds what the strength in that child is."

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