Seton Academy, an elementary/middle school in West Bethlehem, will close at the end of this academic year because of “declining enrollment and financial challenges,” the Diocese of Allentown announced today.
Students will be eligible for $1,500 grants to defray tuition at other Catholic schools in the Diocese of Allentown next school year, according to a news release. A letter explaining the school closure to parents was sent home with students today and mailed for Saturday delivery.
The release also said that a specialized program for children with learning disabilities – the Aquinas Program – will be relocated to the St. John Vianney Regional School in Allentown beginning in September.
Teachers at the school “will be given consideration for employment at other Catholic schools in the Diocese where there are openings,” the release said.
The Diocesan news release also said the following:
Seton Academy opened in 2006 as a result of the merger of SS. Simon and Jude School, Bethlehem; SS. Cyril and Methodius School, Bethlehem; and Holy Child School, Fountain Hill. Since 2006 enrollment has declined 61%. Current enrollment is 88 students. The loss of tuition income and rising health care and energy costs have required the sponsoring parishes to borrow money or deplete savings to meet operational expenses at the school.
The pastors announced a viability study of the school in November. A committee consisting of the pastors, parish representatives, two school parents, a teacher, the principal and representatives of the Diocesan Office of Temporal Services and Office of Education met to explore options to sustain the school.
In the letter to parents, the pastors wrote, “Despite the efforts of the committee to find workable solutions, efforts for which we are deeply grateful, the proposals did not offer a solution that sufficiently addressed the enrollment and financial challenges at the school.”
The pastors also noted, “We will remain committed to Catholic education and will continue to subsidize any registered parishioner of Incarnation of Our Lord Parish, SS. Simon and Jude Parish, Holy Ghost Parish and St. Ursula Parish that is enrolled in a Catholic elementary school in the Diocese of Allentown.” Included with the letter to parents was a list of neighboring Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Allentown, along with the address and contact information for each school, as well as upcoming registration times and opportunities for Open Houses to visit the neighboring Catholic schools.
The pastors’ recommendation was reviewed by the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Diocesan Council of Priests, the Bishop’s Commission on Catholic Schools and the Diocesan Board of Education and was accepted by Diocese of Allentown Bishop John Barres.