NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Emotions were high at Monday night’s meeting between parents of students at St. Rita’s school and leaders of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The Archdiocese recently announced that three catholic schools will permanently shut their doors at the end of the school year, including St. Rita’s.
“It was very disheartening to know that our school was closing and we wasn’t even given the opportunity to have a discussion that our school was in danger of closing,” said Misty Frye, President of the St. Rita’s parent’s association.
The Archdiocese cites low enrollment and lack of finances as the reason for the closure. Parents we spoke to say generations of family members have attended the school and they’re concerned the students won’t be able to afford other catholic schools in the area.
“Most of the kids here are on some type of scholarship and we’re not aware if that scholarship is portable. We don’t know if we can take that scholarship to another school,” said Marcia Freeman, who has two grandchildren who attend St. Rita’s.
Freeman’s grandson, 11-year-old Jordan Dukes, is a sixth grader at the school. St. Rita’s is the fourth school Jordan has attended since he was a child, and he’s devastated that the place he’s found comfort in is closing for good.
“I was kind of upset because I won’t see my friends anymore. What makes it different is that they have an easier education that I can understand,” said Dukes.
Parents and students say what adds insult to injury is how abrupt the announcement was.
“They did not tell us about this about this. I didn’t hear nothing about this closing and stuff,” said Dukes.
St. Rita’s families, some breaking down in tears, are desperately trying to save the school that’s been serving children in New Orleans for nearly 100 years, but the Archdiocese says 2022 will be the last year St. Rita’s will have students in the classroom.
During the meeting, parents recommended ideas like fundraisers to keep the school open, but leaders with the archdiocese told them the decision to close St. Rita’s is final. We reached out to the archdiocese this afternoon. They provided us with this statement that reads in part:
In the case of St. Rita School in New Orleans, we are facing a steady decline in enrollment with a student population currently under 200 students. With the decline in enrollment and current financial situation, the future viability of the school is jeopardized, and the quality of education and services that families expect from a Catholic school could not be delivered moving into the future.
In spite of that, parents tell me they’ll continue to fight to keep the school open.