Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy Catholic schools win appeals to stay open

The Holy Cross Catholic School in Mt. Airy and Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill are no longer slated to merge next year.  Citing declining enrollment and financial woes, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recommended in early January a series of closings and mergers involving 49 of its schools – 44 elementary and five high schools.  The Blue Ribbon Commission report proposed that the two, historic elementary schools in Northwest Philadelphia combine to form a regional school at OMC.  Representatives from both schools later appealed that suggestion, arguing, among other things, that OMC did not have the building capacity to accept Holy Cross students.  Officials with the Archdiocese announced Friday that the appeal was successful. Holy Cross and OMC will now both remain open as separate parish schools. The Archdiocese is not commenting on the specifics of individual appeals, said spokesman Kenneth Gavin.  “This is a very happy day,” said Holy Cross Principal Bryan Werner. “Father [James] Cox came over this morning and made the announcement to the staff and faculty and then he went down and announced to the children and they were very joyous. They were extremely happy.” “It went over very big here,” Rev. Robert Bazzoli, OMC’s pastor, said of the news that was broken to students, staff and parishioners via email Thursday night.  Students are off today.  While challenging, Bazzoli said a lot of good came from the experience of preparing for consolidation. “Most especially, us recognizing the gift that we do have in our parish school – reaffirming that gift. And also the relationship that’s going to continue to develop with Holy Cross School and parish,” he said.  Werner echoed Bazzoli’s sentiments. “We think that by working together in the future, we’ll able to meet the needs even better of the parents and the students in both schools,” he said. Werner is also pleased that Holy Cross will now be able to unveil a new advanced academics program for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. A merger would have nixed that possibility.  Nearly 20 Catholic elementary schools in Philadelphia appealed suggestions made by the Blue Ribbon Commission.  Announcements regarding Archdiocesan high schools have been delayed a week so that new information about potential donors can be considered.

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