Building Assets: The Strategic Use of Closed Catholic Schools

By Knowles, Kristopher | Journal of Catholic Education, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Building Assets: The Strategic Use of Closed Catholic Schools


Knowles, Kristopher, Journal of Catholic Education


Building Assets: The Strategic Use of Closed Catholic Schools

Ronald J. Nuzzi, James M. Frabutt, Anthony C. Holter

Notre Dame, Indiana: Alliance for Catholic Education Press

66 pages, $18.00 (paperback)

ISBN 978-1-935788096

Catholic educators may find it troublesome to explore the strategic use of closed buildings that were once thriving communities of faith-filled education. Stepping away from the emotion that the image of a closed Catholic school may bring and looking at the issue through a lens of large scale Church and (arch) diocesan resource management opens up a much-needed dialogue regarding these facilities and how they are, or are not, being used to promote the mission of the Catholic Church.

Since the peak of Catholic school enrollment in 1965, over 6000 Catholic schools have closed. This staggering amount of real property owned by the Catholic Church is no longer serving the original purpose of educating Catholic youth, a crucial mission of the Church. Nuzzi, Frabutt, and Holter take an in-depth look into the realities of nine (arch)dioceses in the United States, aiming to answer questions regarding the use of such facilities. The economic and demographic realities that closed these schools do not make the facilities inert for utilization in advancing the mission of the Church in other ways. The study sheds light onto creative ways the facilities can and often are being used. The study also exposes larger, systematic issues within the Church that are making the organized effort to best use the facilities difficult. Surprisingly, of all the real properties examined, 24% of these facilities turned up no records of current use; the data regarding the facilities was simply not readily available. The study also revealed that regardless of how facilities were being used, most (arch)dioceses have no clearly articulated policies or procedures in place to facilitate or monitor effective use of the buildings.

The uses of the closed school buildings uncovered during the study were diverse in nature and in their effectiveness in promoting the mission of the Church. One potential (and controversial) use for the closed school buildings is leasing the buildings to public charter schools. Of the nine (arch) dioceses studied, seven had leased former Catholic school buildings to new public charter schools. The study uncovered serious concerns, specifically from pastors of parishes with functioning Catholic schools, regarding the practice. Some of the (arch) diocese studied stated there is extreme caution used and steps taken to ensure the charter schools would not be in direct competition with neighboring Catholic schools before leases were allowed. …

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