Panel to decide future of Phila. Catholic schools

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Tomorrow afternoon, we will learn the recommendations of a blue ribbon panel charged with looking at the future of education in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

One thing seems certain: there won't be as many Catholic schools in several years as there are now.

Jake Jakezuzek, a 2010 West Catholic grad home for the holidays from the Naval Academy, fears his alma mater, which has drastically reduced enrollment, might be on the chopping block list tomorrow.

"I'd be very hurt. Their saying is 'family' and West Catholic is one, big family. It'd be really terrible to see the school close," Jakezuzek said.

West Catholic could be one of 4 or 5 archdiocese high schools to be closed along with 30 to 40 elementary schools that could see the doors closed forever.

Some sources say that could begin by the end of this school year due to a decade of declining enrollment, 38% at the high schools alone.

South Philadelphia's SS. Neuman Goretti High School has seen a decline of more than 50% over the last 10 years.

At West Catholic, the enrollment was at 817 in 2001, it's down now to 360, a fall off of 457.

Knowing that the sweeping recommendations are due for release in less than 24 hours, West Catholic parents are full of fear and anxiety.

"We're definitely in prayer in hoping that West Catholic stays open because I love West Catholic, I love what they did with the students, it's a great school," parent Sharon Samuel said.

The concept the blue ribbon panel has been pondering involves regional schools replacing the individual ones that might be shut down.

All this talk has the West Catholic student body down in the dumps.

"I hope we don't close because we got a lot of friends here. It's like a family here," 10th grader Greg White said.

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