Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholics Get Word on School Mergers in North Hills Parishioners Sad, but Not Surprised

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholics Get Word on School Mergers in North Hills Parishioners Sad, but Not Surprised

Article excerpt

Parishioners and parents at North Hills Catholic schools said they were sad Saturday, but not surprised.

Pastors at the 32 parishes in the area announced during evening Mass that Bishop David Zubik granted final approval for proposed school mergers submitted to him in December by task forces representing seven elementary schools.

St. Alexis and St. Alphonsus schools in Wexford will merge, with the pre-kindergarten students based at St. Alexis and students in kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Alphonsus.

St. Sebastian will merge with St. Teresa of Avila, both in Ross, with students in first through eighth grade based at St. Sebastian and the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at St. Teresa of Avila.

St. Mary of the Assumption in Hampton, St. Bonaventure in Shaler and St. Ursula in Hampton will combine, with the pre-kindergarten students at St. Bonaventure and students in kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Mary. St. Ursula's school, which was founded in 1911, will close in June.

"We'd been in limbo for the last two months," said Meredith Kandravy, a parent at St. Mary. "Now that we have the official word, it's like relief that that part is over."

A total of 11 schools in the North Hills will now be overseen by a new nonprofit, North Hills Catholic Elementary Schools, which will be run by a board of five pastors and four lay people. The board hired Michael C. Killmeyer, who has 26 years of experience as a teacher and administrator at Pittsburgh Catholic schools, to oversee and work with the principals of each school.

St. James School in Sewickley and Christ the Divine Teacher Academy also will be included in the new governance structure. Assumption and Northside Catholic schools will be included in the regionalization and spend the next year developing strategic plans, but no changes to those schools are planned for the next school year, diocesan officials said.

"We must do everything in our power to strengthen our schools - financially, academically and spiritually - so that they can continue to benefit our children, our communities and our world," Bishop Zubik said in a statement Saturday.

The school changes are part of the larger On Mission for the Church Alive restructuring plan, in which the diocese is attempting to combine an evangelistic push with the need to get leaner amid declining membership and Mass attendance.

A similar model eventually will be put in place at all schools throughout the diocese, which has seen a 50 percent drop in overall elementary school enrollment since 2000.

Bill McQuaide, a member of Saint Ursula Parish, said he was sad to see the school close, but the dwindling enrollment made it necessary. Still, he said he had good memories from when his daughter attended Saint Ursula School. …

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