Falling enrollments and a drop-off in funding, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, led the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to announce Tuesday it would permanently close four Catholic schools throughout the region.
Campus leaders at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Queen of Peace and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic schools in Houston and St. Pius V Catholic School in Pasadena were told Monday their schools would not reopen. About 257 students and dozens of teachers and staff members will be affected by the closures.
Superintendent Debra Haney on Tuesday said enrollments at some of the campuses have been decreasing for years, but there had been a sudden and steep drop in parishes’ charitable contributions since many closed their doors to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Without collection trays to fill, churches that rely heavily on in-person donations are suffering the most.
“Some parishes with online giving opportunities are seeing 30 percent of what they normally see,” Haney said. “The effect on the finances of churches and these campuses is humongous.”
Haney said each of the four campuses have other Catholic schools nearby that the affected students could attend, and the archdiocese will give a $500 tuition credit to any student who opts to enroll in a new Catholic school. Staff at the four closing schools also will be given priority in applying to any openings within the archdiocese’s schools, and the church has opened up resources to connect them with public and charter schools, as well.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in a statement said church officials had hoped they would have more time to bring enrollments up at the four schools, but “the cataclysmic effects of this pandemic have left us with no options — which breaks our hearts.”
Even before the pandemic, Catholic schools across the country have struggled to keep their students enrolled. At their peak in the 1960s, enrollments at Catholic schools climbed to about 5.2 million students nationwide. Last school year, fewer than 1.8 million students attended the schools.
The archdiocese moved to close Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic School in the Third Ward last school year, another casualty of slipping enrollments. That campus saw a 70 percent drop in student enrollment in the last five years it was open. In its final year, just 30 students in prekindergarten through eightth grade attended the school.