Updated: Sources say Our Lady of Peace Middle no longer facing closure

  • Monday, February 3, 2014

Representatives with Our Lady of Peace say they have reversed the decision to close the middle school following a Monday afternoon meeting.

According to an email from Principal Stephen Hickey, the school will continue to serve grades 6-8 in the future.

The school was facing a $35,000-$50,000 deficit for the school year, but a plan to raise the money was presented to the Rev. Jacob Joseph and was accepted today, according to school board member Des Kayea.

“Father Jacob called me at 2:50 p.m. today and informed me that the diocese had agreed with the framework of our ‘Grow the School’ proposal,” Kayea said in an email on Monday afternoon. “Subsequently, the middle school will remain open.”

This decision comes after a letter was sent to students on Jan. 24 that said the school will close following the 2013-2014 school year.

In the letter, Joseph said the middle school will not open in 2014-2015 due to financial concerns.

“At this time, the middle school is an area we feel is not financially sustainable,” he wrote. “As pastor, I feel I must do whatever it takes to promote financial stability and to work even harder at increasing the number of students enrolled in 4K-5th (grade).”

A group of parents at Our Lady of Peace, led by PTO President Katy Slagle, was trying to save the middle school at a meeting on Friday night.

“I have a great tie with this school and this church,” Slagle said Friday night. “When I heard (about the decision) I was very upset; I was shocked; I was disappointed; I was sad. Then I started thinking, ‘What can we do to save it?’”

According to Slagle, the school has a yearly operating cost of $426,000 and had paid $220,000 for the school year. The remaining balance for the 2013-2014 school year was $206,000 and, according to financial numbers presented by Slagle, the deficit the school faced was anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000.

“(This is a decision) that came down from the top, driven by finances,” she said. “They didn’t think we could financially make it work anymore. ... We’ve been working ever since (to save the school).”

The decision to close the school had been based strictly on finances, according to Slagle.

“This impacts about 20 students, but the bigger picture is that the families that have kids in middle school also have kids in younger grades,” she said Friday “We believe this will have a dramatic impact on the entire school. So, it is our goal to keep this school complete, pre-k through 8th grade. We have an amazing group of teachers and a capable principal, so we want to keep this going. Reversing the decision to close the school will require money, though.”

T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.

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