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Diocese shutters Wheeling Catholic Elementary

October 27, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - Parents of the 13 students at Wheeling Catholic Elementary School were informed this week that the school will close Dec. 16.

This concludes 114 years of education at the former Cathedral Parish School, where demographic changes to the community have greatly reduced enrollment at the school.

"Based on an honest evaluation of the resources available to help us achieve our mission of providing a quality Catholic education for our students, we acknowledge that the 13 students at Wheeling Catholic Elementary School will be better served at other Catholic schools in the Wheeling area," said Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Article Photos

Photo by Scott McCloskey
A bus waits for students at Wheeling Catholic Elementary on Wednesday. The diocesan school will close its doors Dec. 16 due to low enrollment.

Minor said five dedicated faculty and staff members remain, but there are not sufficient resources to support them and the school. Over the past eight years, the Diocese has provided $2.4 million in financial subsidies to Wheeling Catholic to support operations and academic programs.

"This is a sad day," Minor said. "We join the broader community in grieving the loss of this very important part of our educational experience and Catholic life here in Wheeling. Wheeling Catholic had a fine run, and it is sad to see it close. However, its spirit will live on in the generations of alumni whose lives were forever changed by the clergy, religious and lay teachers who served the school so well."

The decision comes after consultation with Bishop Michael J. Bransfield and the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Until Dec. 16, the faculty and staff of the school will continue instruction while working with families to effectively move students to other schools. Wheeling Catholic's staff has already called neighboring Catholic schools to secure enrollment for their students, and specific recommendations related to transition have been made to families.

"To assist with this transition, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is offering scholarship assistance which may be applied to tuition at another Catholic school in the Diocese at which parents enroll their children this academic year," Minor said.

The diocese also has schools in the Elm Grove, Woodsdale and Warwood neighborhoods of Wheeling, one school serving the Mount Olivet and Sherrard areas, and schools in Benwood and Moundsville in Marshall County. Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools Vincent de Paul Schmidt said the diocese will assist Wheeling Catholic's faculty and staff with networking and transitioning into any job openings that may arise at local Catholic schools.

Bransfield offered words of encouragement for the affected families.

"Please understand that we recognize the importance of our children in the future of our church in Wheeling and throughout the diocesan church," Bransfield said.

Future use of the school building has not been determined. Officials said the structure is in excellent condition due to recent investments in the facility by local benefactors, foundations and the diocese. According to Msgr. Frederick P. Annie, vicar general of the diocese, there will be an adaptive reuse of the building.

According to Schmidt, Wheeling Catholic has been one of the two most highly subsidized schools in the diocese for almost a decade, and its enrollment has sharply decreased during the last three years. Schmidt said that Wheeling Catholic's enrollment dropped in half to 61 students in 2009-10 and down to 40 students in 2010-11.



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