Mt. Airy’s Holy Cross will fight consolidation plan

Officials with the Holy Cross Catholic School in Mt. Airy this week will appeal a proposal that calls for the historic institution to merge with a school in nearby Chestnut Hill.

Citing declining enrollment and financial woes, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently recommended a series of closings and mergers involving 44 Catholic elementary schools and five high schools.

As part of the Blue Ribbon Commission report, Holy Cross, an elementary school, would merge with Our Mother of Consolation (OMC).

On Thursday, Holy Cross Principal Bryan Werner and Rev. James Cox will appear before a review committee. OMC Principal Bruce Hagy and Rev. Robert Bazzoli will join them.

Werner would not reveal every facet of the school’s case, but did say that the enrollment figures the Commission used to make its decision don’t add up.

” The size of both schools, the student population, it would make it impossible for both schools to merge into one building,” he said.

Werner said OMC’s building on East Chestnut Hill Avenue holds 230 students when it’s at full capacity, but that there are currently only 179 students inside. Holy Cross currently has 145 students, he said.

” There was a mistake,” said Werner, noting that he’s optimistic that the merger will be taken off the table.

Enrollment at Holy Cross and OMC has dipped over the years – 16 and 22 percent respectively between 2005 and 2010, according to the report. Still, Werner said it’d be sad to see the nearly 100-year-old school leave the neighborhood.

” It would be a great loss to the community,” said Werner. ” We do a lot with the community and it would be a real shame if it weren’t here anymore.”

He said he appreciates the work that went into the Commission’s report and the need for change within the Archdiocesan school system.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will consider and rule on all of the appeals. His decisions are scheduled for a mid-February release.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.