Catholic Diocese moving forward with North Hills school consolidation plan
November 1, 2016 12:00 AM
The proposals will be sent to Bishop David Zubik by the end of the year, with the eventual goal of duplicating the regionalized structure at other elementary schools across the diocese.
By Elizabeth Behrman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is moving forward with plans to consolidate the administration of 11 elementary schools in the North Hills, but it remains unclear whether the changes will result in school closures or the dissolution of the traditional K-8 model.
Those decisions will be based largely upon the recommendations of task forces at each school, according to a letter being distributed this week among the North Hills parishes. The groups will meet for the first time beginning this week.
The groups are made up of pastors and members of the parishes with schools: St. Alexis and St. Alphonsus, Assumption and Northside Catholic, St. Bonaventure, St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Ursula, and St. Sebastian and St. Teresa of Avila. Christ the Divine Teacher and St. James are also part of the restructuring plan, but are not assigned a task force.
A second letter distributed recently to parents at St. Sebastian in Ross said the groups will consider whether to keep all students together at the same campus or split the older and younger students onto different campuses.
The recommendations of the groups will be part of a larger plan to “regionalize” the school administrations. Rather than be supported by a single parish, each school will be supported by 32 parishes in the North Hills. The schools will each have a principal, but a regional administrator will oversee operations and a non-profit will be formed to administer programming.
The school changes are part of the larger On Mission for the Church Alive restructuring plan, in which the diocese is attempting to combine an evangelistic push with the need to get leaner amid declining membership and Mass attendance. Enrollment in the diocese’s elementary schools has declined by about 50 percent since the year 2000.
“Regionalization embraces a new administrative structure of shared governance where all Catholic elementary schools in a region are a ministry supported by all parishes in that region,” diocesan spokesman Bob DeWitt said. “Goals include improved collaboration among schools in technology, fundraising, athletics and extracurricular activities, and more effective use of human, financial, and facility resources designed to stabilize enrollment and tuition costs.”
Meredith Kandravy, who has three children at St. Mary School, said she and the other members of that school’s task force plan to fight to keep the K-8 model that is distinctive to Catholic elementary schools. She was concerned when the diocese announced the school changes in August that input from parents would not be solicited or considered.
Creating the task forces are a positive sign, although Mrs. Kandravy expressed concern about their tight deadline.
“This is what we fought for,” Mrs. Kandravy said. “I’m very encouraged by that, I just don’t know how it’s going to play out after this.”
The groups will solicit parent input via an online survey Nov. 17. They will meet again by Dec. 2 to discuss the survey results and then present their final proposals to parents by Dec. 5, according to the letter from the diocese. The proposals will be sent to Bishop David Zubik by the end of the year, with the eventual goal of duplicating the regionalized structure at other elementary schools across the diocese.
Elizabeth Behrman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590.
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