Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our School is Closing, Part 2

Well, the school is closed. Except for moving out, which is happening for the rest of the month, all the regular activities have ended. The end of school was hard, it was like one long death. As the end came we had one sad event after another. First there was the Saturday mass for the parish and school, where current faculty & staff, and those who have been involved since it's beginning, were remembered and thanked. There were speeches, of course, and the tears.



Then there was the traditional "Pass it On" school Mass where the 8th graders essentially "pass the baton," symbolically of course, onto the Kindergartners. Both were dressed in their graduation gowns and it was nice, but I could not help but think "Pass on what?" the whole time. There was nothing to pass on, but it was the tradition and a nice photo opportunity, especially since both of my sons were in it.

We had the 8th grader's graduation party one night followed by a graduation Mass the next night. The party had lots of food, awards and family memories. It was a lovely celebration of what great kids this class had. Many of them have been there since they were three or four years old and the class is very close. It is amazing what fun simple pleasures are - musical chairs, laughter, dancing, cake, and watching these young people blossom.

During the party in the cafeteria I noticed pictures posted from the 53 years the school existed. I kept looking for pictures from my class years ago, but did not find any. What I did notice was a picture from what looked like a graduating class from the 80's. 56 kids. This year's class had 14. My son mentioned that the first row in the picture had as many kids as his whole class. That pretty much says it all about why we are closing.

When they announced the closing, after the initial shock, there was a drive to save the school, which I personally thought was a waste of time and energy, but I helped because I was asked to do so. I was not very enthusiastic, I'm afraid. The school did not get to this situation overnight and it would have to be a miracle for it to stay open. Enrollment would have to double, there would have to be a tuition increase and lots of donations. That was not going to happen. Why would parents put their kids in a school that would probably close? Parents could not pay the tuition we did have, which was the cheapest in the county, and with the economy they were not going to pay an increase. And writing to Bill Gates & Oprah Winfrey, as some were doing, was not going to save the school either.

I think the biggest question for parents is "Where do we go now?" "What school to go to?" Some parents immediately removed their children for other schools. For us, the first thing was to get into another Catholic school ASAP for the next year. I immediately called other schools to be added to their waiting lists. I asked around about the several different schools in the area. And during the registration period toured some schools. We registered at one of the schools that we thought would be excellent for our son, even though we knew the tuition and other expenses would be difficult for us to do, but we would try. We were just very grateful to get in. The Archdiocese was asking those schools to give us the same tuition as ours did for a couple of years. The school and the people there are nice and very welcoming and helpful. There is lots of discipline and I think he would be happy there.

But...then our pastor announced something unexpected. Our school could become a Charter school. It was a shock and I did not know what to think. Eventually, the details were hammered out and the charter school, which is an established organization with several successful schools in the area, is going to take over all seven of the archdiocesan schools that are closing this year, plus one that closed last year. Several of our teachers are supposed to be hired. My husband and I discussed it as more details were revealed and it became an option for us. With the economy being so bad, and our finances, it was an easy, yet difficult, choice. Our son will be going into first grade at the charter school. But it also means our son will not be educated in a Catholic school. That struggle will be my next post.

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