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St. Blaise families prepare for school merger with acceptance and optimism

Prospective registrants and enrolled families gathered last night for an open house at Manayunk’s Holy Child Regional School.

With a palpable sense of anticipation pervading the several dozen adults and children in attendance, the event served as an opportunity for parents and students to meet with teachers and administrators at the Catholic elementary school, which will soon be known as St. Blaise Regional School.

St. Blaise will draw students from both Holy Child and St. Bridget School in East Falls, the latter of which is scheduled to close at the end of the school year.

In her opening remarks, Susan Canio, current principal of St. Bridget School and future head of St. Blaise, acknowledged the upheaval that resulted from the school merger process, but focused on the power of collaboration.

“We are a partnership,” she said. “We must work together to benefit our students and make St. Blaise a success.”

Enrollment 

Elaborating on her remarks, Canio said success is occurring, “slowly but surely.”

As reported by Newsworks, enrollment figures as of April were significantly short of the 400 students originally projected by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, resulting in a revised tuition schedule for St. Blaise and an extension of registration deadlines. 

Canio was unable to provide current enrollment figures, which were last reported to be approximately 160 students. She was not immediately available Thursday morning for Newsworks inquiry.

However, the figures are still in flux. Canio said that parents often wait until the last minute – or later – to register. “It happens every year,” she said.

This was reinforced by an experience related by Chrissy Plover, a Roxborough resident and Holy Child parent.

Last June, Plover said, there were only four students enrolled for Pre-K. At present, there are 16 in the class, two of whom registered after the start of the school year. A teacher herself, Plover observed that eleventh-hour enrollment is not unusual in either public or parochial schools.

Fortunately, she’s already registered – and will continue to be.

Referencing the educational timeline of her own children, Plover said, “I need it open for 12 more years.”

‘It’s a bargain’

This sentiment wasn’t unusual – many parents present at Holy Child expressed an unwavering devotion to the school, regardless of the name or the circumstances that brought it about.

Paul Torna, a Manayunk resident who once taught at St. Bridget School, noted the “family-centric” qualities of Holy Child. Coming from a public school background himself, he appreciated the small class sizes, and how the school affords his family the opportunity to remain in the city.

In response to the increases in tuition announced earlier in the year, he indicated that many families are prepared to accept it.

“We’re all in agreement – it’s a bargain,” he said.

Tracy McNally, a Manayunk resident and alumna of Holy Child, echoed this statement, but recognized that Catholic education often requires personal sacrifices. To her, it’s worth it.

“We have to save Catholic education,” she said. “We’ve accomplished and achieved so much.”

This commitment reverberates at higher levels of St. Blaise’s as well.

“We’re dedicated to bringing it here and keeping it here,” said Canio. “We’ll try our best and let God do the rest.”

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