2 Catholic schools in St. Paul closing

  • Article by: GREGORY A. PATTERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • February 18, 2010 - 10:28 PM

In a tough environment of declining enrollment and demographic changes in local neighborhoods, two Roman Catholic schools in St. Paul said they will close at the end of the school year.

St. Bernard's High School and Holy Childhood School, which serves a pre-K-8 population, both faced dwindling enrollment and had become a burden on their parishes, said officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in announcing the closings Thursday evening.

St. Bernard's closing comes less than a year after it shuttered its lower school and set plans to become the state's first Catholic high school offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Currently, St. Bernard's has 198 students in grades nine through 12 at its location off Rice Street.

"Every possible effort has been made to keep this Catholic high school and this Catholic grade school open," said Archbishop John Nienstedt. "But despite those efforts, the reality of continued dwindling enrollment, for one, and the need to end the resulting financial burden on these parishes, made these very difficult decisions unavoidable."

St. Bernard's has a long history of education. Its grade school was founded by the Benedictine Sisters 118 years ago as an outreach to German immigrants in the neighborhood. The upper school was opened in 1957.

While St. Bernard's officials sought to become an IB school to attract more students, they said that they ultimately could not develop the program within the time frame and resources needed to bring it to fruition. About 80 percent of its students receive financial aid, officials said.

Holy Childhood, located in St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood, has served that area for more than 60 years. It has 48 students, having suffered a sharp enrollment decline in recent years that officials attribute to "demographic changes which reduced the school's available pool of students."

A statement from the archdiocese said Catholic high school options for the St. Bernard's students include nearby St. Agnes School, Hill-Murray School and Cretin-Derham Hall, all in St. Paul. After St. Bernard's closing, the archdiocese will have a total of 13 Catholic high schools.

Holy Childhood families will have the nearby alternatives of St. Rose of Lima, St. Agnes, and Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew.

The remaining archdiocese high schools will be asked to hold open houses for the St. Bernard's students and their parents, said Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Martha Frauenheim.

She added that financial assistance will be available to St. Bernard's families that choose to apply at other Catholic high schools.

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287

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