St. Theresa School’s K-8 grades will close at the end of this school year because of steadily declining enrollment, which is causing a financial drain on the parish that operates it. The Hellertown school’s Pre-K program will continue.
“We recognize the impact this news has on students, on their families, and on our staff,” said Dr. Brooke Tesché, Chancellor of Catholic Education.
“I urge the affected students and their parents to transfer to another of our 29 elementary schools,” she said. “Every student will continue to have a place in one of our schools.”
Dr. Tesché said parents of students in the affected school will be eligible for tuition grants as an incentive for them to switch to another Catholic elementary school.
“While this was not an easy decision, as Pastor, I must be responsible to both the school and the parish.” Father Jerome Tauber, Pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus parish, wrote to school parents.
“The continued operation of the school, with significant deficits and without a financially viable plan to close these deficits, threatens the financial stability of our parish,” Father Tauber said.
“Please know that I am deeply saddened that we could not formulate a plan that would allow us to keep the school open. I will always feel blessed that I was a pastor of St. Theresa School.”
Father Tauber said the decision was made only after a great deal of analysis, deliberation, and prayer.
He praised the efforts of students, parents, teachers, staff, parishioners and benefactors who have raised funds over the years to keep the school open as long as possible. He said the benefactors of the recent Close the Gap campaign will have their donations refunded.
At St. Theresa, the number of students has declined from 129 students in the 2017-2018 school year to 81 today, spread across nine grade levels. The parish has drawn deeply into its savings to make up for the school’s annual operating deficit. In a February letter to parents, Father Tauber said one more year of deficit operations at the school would nearly deplete the parish’s unrestricted reserve of savings. Reduced parish weekly collections due to the pandemic also were a factor.
Because elementary schools are operated by individual parishes, and not by the Diocese, the final decision to recommend closure resided with Father Tauber. The Diocese provided the parish with the support and the evaluation tools it needed to determine the school’s future. The closing also was recommended by the diocesan Council of Priests and the diocesan Board of Education. Bishop Alfred Schlert accepted the recommendation to close the K-8 grades.
Parents of students were informed of the decision in a letter emailed to them today.