Proposals Would Close Some Catholic Schools

Plain Dealer
November 24, 2008

Families across the Cleveland Catholic Diocese are wondering if they will lose their parish schools in a broader restructuring plan.

Last year, Bishop Richard Lennon ordered regional groups of parishes to come up with plans to close or merge churches in response to suburban flight, financial hardship and a clergy shortage.

Parishes have no mandate regarding the specific number of schools to be closed or merged.

"Rather, parishes were advised to consider enrollment trends and the future of Catholic education when making their decisions," said Robert Tayek, the diocese's spokesman.

Students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish School get their textbooks and supplies from their lockers. The West Side school would stay open under one proposal for restructuring of Cleveland Catholic Diocese schools, according to sources.
Photo by Gus Chan

Tayek couldn't say exactly how many schools have already proposed to close or merge. Not all the regional groups, or clusters, have submitted their proposals to the diocese.

Lennon is not expected to make a final decision on church and school closings or mergers until March.

The diocese has 112 elementary and 22 high schools. It covers Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina, Summit, Ashland, Wayne, Lake and Geauga counties.

Some proposals already have been made to the diocese, according to cluster representatives who agreed to talk. Among those proposals:

• Close St. Mel School on Triskett Road in West Park and keep open schools at St. Ignatius of Antioch on Lorain Avenue, St. Mark on Montrose Avenue and St. Vincent de Paul on Lorain Avenue.

• Merge the schools at St. Leo the Great on Broadview Road and Our Lady of Good Counsel on Pearl Road and keep open St. Charles Borromeo in Parma and St. Thomas More in Brooklyn.

• Keep open schools at St. Stanislaus on Forman Avenue, Our Lady of Mount Carmel on West 70th Street and Our Lady of Angels on Rocky River Drive.

• The cluster of St. Adalbert, St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima, St. Agatha-St. Aloysius and St. Philip Neri parishes decided to keep open all four affiliated elementary schools. They include St. Adalbert on East 83rd Street, St. Agatha-St. Aloysius on Lakeview Road, St. Joseph Collinwood on St. Clair Avenue and St. Thomas Aquinas on Superior Avenue.

Tom McFadden, principal at St. Mel, said the decision to consider closing the school was due to declining enrollment and limited building space. The school can hold 250 students.

Each of the other schools in St. Mel's cluster -- St. Mark, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Ignatius of Antioch -- has space for more than 400 students.

He said the school has scheduled a forum on Jan. 13 and invited area Catholic elementary schools. The idea is for St. Mel parents to learn about what other options are available to them if the school does close.

"Right now, it's only a proposal," McFadden said. "But we want to make sure we are prepared."

The proposed merger between St. Leo the Great and Our Lady of Good Counsel calls for all students to attend St. Leo's school. Right now, there are 299 students at St. Leo and 181 students at Our Lady of Good Counsel.

The cluster of St. Adalbert, St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima, St. Agatha-St. Aloysius and St. Philip Neri parishes hope to keep open all the schools because -- unsure of the fate of each parish -- the group wanted to keep a presence in the community.

"If the parishes close, this will be the only way to have a presence," said Gregory Clifford, cluster representative. "We can't lose our outreach in the community."


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