Owego's St. Patrick School to remain open for 150th year - Catholic Courier

Owego’s St. Patrick School to remain open for 150th year

Having narrowly met its registration quota by a deadline of March 15, St. Patrick School in Owego has avoided closure and will remain open at least for its 150th-anniversary year of 2008-09.

According to Father William Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County, registration at St. Patrick had reached 56 students in grades kindergarten through 5, including 10 in kindergarten, as of March 18. In mid-February, Father Moorby announced that Bishop Matthew H. Clark accepted his recommendation that St. Patrick remain open next year only "if by March 15 at least 55 students are enrolled in grades K-5 for next year and at least 10 students are enrolled for kindergarten." Had those figures not been met, St. Patrick — the only Catholic school in Tioga County — would have closed.

Father Moorby told the Catholic Courier March 18 that his recommendation was based on the parish pastoral council’s wish to give affected families a role in determining the school’s future.

"We wanted to leave it up to the people," he said.

The enrollment quota was met despite a planned tuition increase of more than 25 percent for a single-student family. Tuition in 2008-09 will be $2,950 for the first child of a parishioner family, and $3,975 for a non-parishioner family. Father Moorby said registration had been slow until parish officials devised a plan by which tuition payments could be spread out over an entire year, rather than the current 10-month payment period.

The pastor said parental support for the school has remained at a high level, noting, for instance, that "in the middle of all this, the Fathers’ Club had a chicken barbecue (on March 1) and sold 1,100 dinners. The parents really stepped forward."

Father Moorby said he now hopes that St. Patrick’s viability will strengthen beyond its sesquicentennial year. The school currently has 63 students in kindergarten through grade 5, and the pre-kindergarten program has 34 children.

"While we have reached the minimum goals that we set for registered students it is our hope that even more will register in the days ahead," Father Moorby wrote in a March 23 bulletin notice. He noted that interested families are invited to attend an open house on Saturday, April 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. or to take a personal tour of the school at another time.

St. Patrick’s is one of two non-Monroe County schools that Bishop Clark had identified in mid-January as being "at risk" based on recommendations from a 23-member task force. Whereas St. Patrick will remain open, officials at Holy Family Parish in Dansville have decided their school will close at the end of the 2007-08 school year.

In all ,14 diocesan Catholic schools are slated for closure in June due to patterns of low enrollment and rising costs.

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