SAN BERNARDINO: Diocese rejects plan to keep school open
10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, July 19, 2011
By BRIAN ROKOS
The Diocese of San Bernardino on Tuesday rejected a plan that supporters of St. Anthony Catholic School say would have allowed the financially struggling school to stay open.
The K-8 school on San Bernardino’s west side had suffered from declining enrollment, forcing it to take heavily from its reserves, and the diocese announced that it would close.
Patricia Vesely, superintendent of the diocese’s 30 schools, then met with supporters July 7 and gave them a week to come up with a plan to increase enrollment and raise money.
Ken Gasca, president of the school board, said Tuesday that in that week, supporters had secured enrollment commitments from the families of 130 students – an increase of 48 – and raised $13,000. Lois Carson, who helped found the school, and the Rev. Jim Graham presented the plan to Bishop Gerald Barnes on Monday, Gasca said.
The Rev. Walter Miller, pastor of St. Anthony Church, called Gasca on Tuesday to say that the diocese had decided to close the school. Gasca said the Rev. Miller did not offer an explanation.
“We’re not sure what happened with that deal,” Gasca said.
John Andrews, a diocese spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
“That is a totally disheartening decision,” said City Councilman Rikke Van Johnson, whose ward includes the school that his wife, Sharon, attended. “I don’t know what’s motivating their thinking but they obviously didn’t take into context the importance of the school to the community.”
Supporters said the students, mostly blacks and Hispanics, leave St. Anthony better prepared for high school than if they had attended public school.
But there were not enough students. St. Anthony had 270 students 10 years ago, 200 two years ago and 155 at the end of this school year, Andrews said last week. He said families of 82 students had placed deposits on the $3,200 annual tuition for the fall.
Andrews also said last week that the school would have a budget shortfall of $200,000 if 82 enrolled, and a shortfall of $107,000 if 114 enrolled.
Gasca said supporters planned to meet Tuesday night and consider their options.