CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Citing declining enrollment, financial shortfalls, staffing challenges and repairs, the St. Joseph Parish School in Cuyahoga Falls will be closing at the end of the current school year.
Rev. Jared P. Orndorff Pastor confirmed the news Monday in a letter written to parents and guardians.
“As of April 18, our school has less than 100 students committed for the 2022-23 school year, which is not a sustainable number as it would require the parish to subsidize the school at minimum of $500,000 for the upcoming year,” the letter declares. “Thus after much discernment, consultation with both finance and parish councils, and with the approval of the Most Reverend Bishop Malesic, the decision has been made to suspend operations of (close) Saint Joseph Parish School at the end of the current school year.”
Parents have been told that all current students will be offered seats at other nearby schools Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Cuyahoga Falls and Holy Family School in Stow “to assure irresistibly Catholic, academically excellent Catholic schools are accessible for all who desire to attend in the surrounding communities.”
The school’s Facebook page is now filled with dozens of comments from those expressing their sadness with the closure.
“This saddens me beyond belief,” one person wrote. “So many wonderful years at that school.”
On Tuesday, 3News Neil Fischer spoke with parents of St. Joseph's students who say they're shocked the closure happened this quickly.
"We have the best teachers and the best staff, and it's just very disappointing, very disheartening that nothing was really done to save it," says Ashley Layton, a parent and after school care employee at St. Joseph's.
Parents attempted to raise money to support St. Joseph's, however, Layton says their attempts were turned away by leadership at the school.
Layton, who attended St. Joseph's herself, has two young children who attend the school and is now unsure what the future of their education looks like.
"I just feel like at a complete loss, like I have no idea what we're going to do," says Layton.
The diocese told 3News Tuesday morning that they were not going to comment further on the closure of St. Joseph's.
A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night with school officials and parishioners to go over the next steps for St. Joseph's Parish.
Here is the full announcement:
Dear St. Joseph Parish School Parents and Guardians,
It is with a heavy heart that I share this news. As we discussed with you at the March 23 meeting, Saint Joseph Parish has been facing challenges of declining enrollment, significant financial shortfalls, staffing challenges, and the need of major facility repairs for our school. As of April 18, our school has less than 100 students committed for the 2022-23 school year, which is not a sustainable number as it would require the parish to subsidize the school at minimum of $500,000 for the upcoming year.
Thus after much discernment, consultation with both finance and parish councils, and with the approval of the Most Reverend Bishop Malesic, the decision has been made to suspend operations of (close) Saint Joseph Parish School at the end of the current school year.
As we are in this Easter Season, we know that from suffering and death comes resurrection. I fully believe that while there will be much sadness in closing our school, it will offer a challenge to raise up and reimagine Catholic schools and how our parish supports students and families. Bishop Malesic has directed me to enter into a collaborative process with neighbors Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM) in Cuyahoga Falls and Holy Family School (HFS) in Stow to proactively create a plan to assure irresistibly Catholic, academically excellent Catholic schools are accessible for all who desire to attend in the surrounding communities. St. Joseph will be an equal participant in this process. Conversation has already begun, and a formal process is planned to begin in the fall of 2022.
St. Joseph Parish School has arranged for all current students to be offered seats at IHM and HFS. Parents will be able to choose either school. Students will be given the parishioner tuition rate and will be encouraged to remain parishioners at St. Joseph Parish.
Mrs. Carrie DePasquale will remain a staff member of St. Joseph Parish to serve as a liaison to our parishioners who attend one of the two neighboring schools. In addition, she will offer administrative and student support to IHM and HFS. St. Joseph will be working out financial arrangements to support both schools. I sincerely regret any difficulties our school closure will cause families. Thank you for your commitment now to St. Joseph Parish School and to the future of Catholic education.
We will be holding a parent/guardian meeting on Wednesday, April 27 at 6pm in the school gym to share next steps including our plans to successfully complete this school year as well as make a transition to other schools. The pastors and principals of IHM and HFS will be present to introduce themselves and share with you enrollment information and opportunities to visit the schools.
Please forward any questions you may have to Principal Carrie DePasquale at email@example.com or Business Manager Melissa Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your submitted questions will be answered via email. If any discussions need to be had, a phone call or ZOOM call will be scheduled.
We recall fond memories of nearly 100 years in Catholic education here at St. Joseph, and are filled with hope as Bishop Malesic calls us to something new for Catholic education through the Keeping the Faith initiative.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Rev. Jared P. Orndorff Pastor
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on April 21, 2022.