Two area Catholic high schools will close at the end of this academic year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Wednesday.
The decision to shut John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School in Philadelphia and Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, Montgomery County, comes as a result of their declining enrollment. The schools are operating at 36% and 40% of enrollment capacity, respectively.
“Today is one of great sadness,” Archbishop Nelson Pérez said in a statement. “… The closure of any Catholic school is deeply painful, most especially for the students, teachers, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters so intimately connected to them.”
The announcement comes after a sustainability study conducted by Faith in the Future over the summer into the health of the high schools in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Faith in the Future oversees operational management of the archdiocesan high schools.
The loss of Hallahan, at 19th and Wood streets in Center City — the oldest all-girls diocesan high school in the country — and McDevitt is huge for Philadelphia area Catholics, as both schools have long histories and strong communities of graduates.
According to the announcement from the archdiocese, the coronavirus pandemic was not the main reason for the school closures, but it “reinforces the need to take immediate action” due to the ongoing uncertainty, especially with in-person versus virtual classes.
In addition, requests for tuition assistance throughout the archdiocese are up 46% from last year, with many in need of aid for the first time ever, putting a severe financial strain on schools dependent on the tuition payment model.
“The decisions announced today were difficult,” said Irene Hannan, CEO of Faith in the Future. “We know they have great impact on our families and school communities. Making them now will allow us to continue providing the product our families need and deserve with an eye to strengthening the other schools in the system. Our strong focus is on the future of Catholic secondary education in Philadelphia, ensuring it remains accessible and affordable for all.”