Diocese of Palm Beach vows not to close schools

Catholic schools hit with dropping enrollment

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Educators across the state and our community are dealing with shrinking budgets. Public and private schools alike are feeling the strain. Catholic educators in Palm Beach County soothed worries today by pledging not to close schools next year; however, that doesn't mean they can avoid thinking about what touch choices are down the road.

NewsChannel 5 has learned that parents at five mid-Palm Beach County area Catholic schools received a letter from the Diocese of Palm Beach stating the area may not be able to support all those schools.

Gisele Brice said she is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep her daughter at Sacred Heart School.

"My daughter loves the school," she said.

After learning from the Diocese that enrollment is down, she's concerned about the future of her daughter's school.

"It's very sad," she explained. "It's such a good school. The teachers are wonderful and the kids are great. It's very sad to find out what's happening with the school."

The Diocese of Palm Beach said enrollment has also dropped at four other Catholic elementary schools in the area: St. Luke School in Lake Worth and St. Juliana, Holy Name of Jesus, and St. Ann in West Palm Beach.

In a letter to parents at all five schools, the Diocese of Palm Beach said "without an increase in that enrollment, the area does not seem able to fully support five elementary schools." The Diocese added, "there was a proposal for a merger of two schools," but said, "… that proposal was not accepted for the coming year." The Diocese promised parents that "all five elementary schools will be open for the 2011 - 2012 school year."

Representatives from the Diocese declined to talk on camera, however in their letter they stated they will work with all five schools to do whatever possible to provide "a quality Catholic education" for students.

That's good news for parents like Gisele Brice.

"(I have) A lot of hope you know," she said. "If something can happen, it will not just be me. Other parents will be very happy."

A teacher at Sacred Heart said they're looking at innovative ways to keep students, including adding new programs to help them compete with magnet schools.

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