Due to worries about the building’s safety and the cost of repairs, St. Joseph Catholic School in Cincinnati’s West End will close before the start of the following academic year.
St. Joseph, one of Cincinnati’s first Catholic institutions, has been a mainstay of the West End for 176 years.
Archdiocese of Cincinnati authorities confirmed the closure on Thursday, saying the choice was made following consultation with an engineering firm, the parish council of St. Joseph, representatives from Catholic schools, and archdiocese managers.
They stated there were no intentions to reopen and that the shutdown would take effect immediately.
“It is with great sadness that St. Joseph Catholic School is closing,” affirmed Susan Gibbons, the head of the Catholic schools. “St. Joseph has been a rich and beautiful example of Catholic ministry during its long history.”
The 125-year-old school building has structural issues, according to Lee Wilson, president of the St. Joseph parish council. Last week, authorities from the archdiocese informed the council about an examination performed by an engineering firm.
The archdiocese informed pupils that the structure was unsafe for pupils, but no financial assistance was provided.
“It was a surprise to us,” Wilson stated. “I’m very frustrated with the handling of this, from start to finish.”
The 168 children at the school, who are in kindergarten through eighth grade, are being helped by the archdiocese to locate other Catholic schools in the area for the upcoming academic year.
According to Archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack, St. Joseph kids will be given preference during the enrollment process, so they can swiftly adapt to new schools.
The school has ten administrators, 17 instructors, and teaching assistants. Ashley Toney, the school’s principal, was unavailable for comment.
Schack claimed that the archbishop hired the company to inspect structural issues with the school’s building that surfaced this spring.
According to her, the engineers determined that most of the structure’s mechanical systems were “at the end of their functional life” and that massive repairs, including a new roof, were required throughout the whole network.
The company put the price tag on those fixes at $2.5 million.
“In its current state, the building represents a serious safety concern,” Schack stated.
Wilson claimed that because of the evaluation’s findings, parish council members agreed that students should not return to the building the next academic year.
As word spread of Catholic school closing after 176 years because of repair costs, Enquirer tweeted:
West Side Cincinnati Catholic school closing after 176 years because of repair costs https://t.co/szKpxMamB0
— Enquirer (@Enquirer) June 30, 2023
She said that they would prefer additional time to think about their options, including the potential for a second evaluation to seek less expensive solutions that might keep the school open.
“We’ve never had this issue before,” Wilson stated. “Why all of a sudden is it at the forefront and a reason to close the school?”
She claimed that closing the school would devastate the West End and the parish. “It’s extremely important,” she stated. “Children of children of children have gone to that school.”
Although the decision to close the school was “heartbreaking,” the Rev. Rodolpho Coaquira-Hilaje, pastor of St. Joseph church, said it was imperative to safeguard the safety of the pupils and employees.
He claimed that the parish is deliberating its choices for the building’s future.
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St. Joseph School is a member of a network of urban Catholic schools that get funding from the Catholic Inter-City Schools Education Network, a nonprofit that provides students and faculty with financial aid and other forms of support.
Most of the pupils of St. Joseph are minorities, primarily Black and Hispanic, like at many CISE institutions.
Along with structural issues, St. Joseph’s enrollment has decreased by more than 35% since 2017, from 262 to 168.
The school’s shutdown coincides with Beacons of Light, a substantial reorganization that is taking place throughout the archdiocese.
The goal of the initiative is to save expenses, pool resources—including priests—and improve parishes’ productivity and financial stability.
Beacons of Light is predicted to cause some parish and school closures over the ensuing years, although Schack insisted the decision to close St. Joseph School was unaffected.
She said that the renovation cost would make it impossible to continue operating the school.
“If Beacons of Light was not in effect, we would have the same result,” Schack stated. “This is the right decision for the safety of students and staff.”
Patricia Gault is a seasoned journalist with years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for uncovering the truth and bringing important stories to light. Patricia has a sharp eye for detail and a talent for making complex issues accessible to a broad audience. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a commitment to accuracy and impartiality, earning a reputation as a reliable and trusted source of news.