Holy Cross extends welcome while families regroup - Catholic Courier
Diocesan schools Superintendent Anne Willkens Leach and Father Tom Wheeland speak Dec. 1 about Holy Cross School reopening. Diocesan schools Superintendent Anne Willkens Leach and Father Tom Wheeland speak Dec. 1 about Holy Cross School reopening.

Holy Cross extends welcome while families regroup

CHARLOTTE — The pepped-up cheerleaders in yellow and black uniforms, the excited families cheering spiritedly for CYO basketball players, and the school tours capped by punch and cookies in the newly renovated cafeteria were more than signs of vitality during an open house Dec. 9 at the former — and future — Holy Cross School.

They were signs that even though the school closed in 2008, Holy Cross Parish has been hoping, praying and actively working toward the school’s rebirth by opening a preschool, maintaining religious-education and CYO programs, keeping the school completely furnished and continually updating the facility through renovations.

Their prayers will be answered this coming fall with the reopening of Holy Cross School.

Yet parishioners say they lament that their school has been chosen to reopen while Mother of Sorrows School and Cathedral School at Holy Rosary will consolidate there in the fall.

"I’m overjoyed that Holy Cross will have a school again, but it’s very sad that it comes at the expense of another Catholic school, particularly one that my kids are in," said Karen Cavacos, whose children moved to Mother of Sorrows School after Holy Cross closed in 2008.

The pain of transferring from one school to another was on the minds of many at the open house.

"We are very aware of what (parents and students) are going through at this time of change," said Holy Cross pastor Father Tom Wheeland. "We’ve been through these difficulties, and therefore we want to reach out to them."

According to Anne Willkens Leach, superintendent of diocesan Catholic schools, the fact that Holy Cross could accommodate all displaced students and is in move-in condition were two reasons it was chosen to reopen in the fall of 2011. Parents, as always, will be free to send their children to the school of their choosing.

"As a parish school, (Holy Cross) is self-sufficient, not only financially, but it is in move-in condition," Willkens Leach said. "It is pristine."

Diocesan officials announced the changes Dec. 1 and noted that they are part of ongoing efforts to enhance the stability of Monroe County Catholic schools. Other measures to improve school stability include moving all sixth-grade classes to a diocesan middle school in Brighton by 2012, and reverting all of the county’s Catholic elementary schools to parish operation by 2012.

Willkens Leach said the consolidation of Mother of Sorrows and Cathedral School at Holy Rosary is being driven by two factors: the planned relocation of Cathedral School due to the anticipated sale of Holy Rosary church property to Providence Housing Development Corp. for senior housing, and significant enrollment declines at both schools, which caused diocesan officials to worry about their stability if they were to revert to parish operation.

"Enrollment drives everything we do," Willkens Leach said, noting that current prekindergarten to eighth-grade enrollment in Monroe County diocesan and parish-operated schools currently is 3,188, as compared to 3,500 last year, marking a 9 percent decline. "If we had gained a lot of kids each year — like a couple percentage points — we would be in a very different position."

To many parents, the announcement of school changes came as a shock. Diocesan officials have said several times that they opted in 2008 to close 13 Catholic schools in Monroe County to help stabilize the overall Catholic school system. They also previously had quashed any hopes of reopening schools, pointing out that an increase in the number of schools could destabilize the system.

Cavacos said she for one was caught off guard by the announcement of Holy Cross’ reopening.

"We have been very happy at Mother of Sorrows," Cavacos said. "We have adjusted well, and the teachers are wonderful, and my kids have gotten a good education. I hate to see that come to an end."

While they mourned the loss of their current schools, other parents said they were pleasantly surprised by Holy Cross.

"She’s loving it," Donna Tremiti said of her 9-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, a fourth-grader at Mother of Sorrows School. "I think she likes the fact that there’s a gym and a cafeteria."

"I thought the school was really big and really nice," Gabrielle said.

Some parents noted they will need more information before making a decision on the schools.

"The school is nice, but it’s hard to see what it’s about until we see the teachers and curriculum," said Jim Palmeri, whose family moved into their neighborhood in part because it was close to Mother of Sorrows School. "We don’t know the tuition."

Other parents whose children had attended Holy Cross in the past empathized with the parents of the consolidating schools.

"It was very difficult to leave here," said Carrie Hayes, whose daughter attended Holy Cross for kindergarten and first grade and has been at Mother of Sorrows ever since. "It was very sad. We didn’t really understand it. It took a while to get adjusted."

Katie Zimmerman’s daughter would spend her sixth-grade year at Holy Cross, and her son, who has started kindergarten at Mother of Sorrows, would have several years at Holy Cross.

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