The Dorchester Central campus of Pope John Paul II Academy will close in June of this year, according to parents who were informed of the decision at a meeting last evening. The school, housed in what was once St. Mark's Grammar School, is one of five that collectively make up the Catholic academy in Dorchester.
The Archdiocese of Boston confirmed the news today in a statement issued to the Reporter in which they termed the closing of the central campus as a â€œconsolidation.â€
Fr. William Joy, who chairs the Academyâ€™s board of trustees, says in the statement: "The economic recession has had a significant impact on our enrollment and the pace of the fundraising effort. Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy is a beacon of light for families in Dorchester and Mattapan, and we want to take the necessary steps now to assure that will be the case for many years to come. The Academy is leading the way in educating future generations of leaders and its long-term viability is critical to the success of the community."
Parents and parishioners quickly formed a Facebook group last night with the name "Save St. Mark's School.â€
The creator of the Facebook page, Julie McNeill, says that parents were told of the decision by representatives of the school, including PJPII Academy director Russ Wilson, Central campus principal Robert Penta and Fr. Bill Joy.
The Facebook page urges supporters to â€œplease write a letter to the Archdiocese of Boston 66 Brooks Drive Braintree, MA 02184-& St. Mark Church c/o/ Father Finn 20 Roseland Street, Dorchester, MA, 02124. Ask for St. Mark's to return to being a parish run school!â€
Todayâ€™s statement from the Archdiocese says that all students now enrolled at the central campus â€œwill be able to continue their studies at the Academy and are guaranteed seats at one of the
four remaining campuses.â€
Enrollment across the Academyâ€™s five campuses â€” which also includes Neponset, Columbia, Mattapan, and Lower Mills â€” is down by 3% this year, according to the Archdiocese. Dorchester Central has the lowest enrollment of the fiveâ€” with just 52% of its seats filled for the 2009-2010 school year.
"We want to assure the Dorchester Central community that we are committed to their students,â€ said Dr. Mary Grassa O'Neill, Secretary for Education/Superintendent for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese.
Julie McNeill, a former student and employee of St. Mark's School and who has worked as Teacher's Assistant in the new Central campus' Pre-K classroom, said she is "saddened and disappointed with Pope John Paul II Academy's decision to consolidate campuses, and abandon the St. Mark's
School's building, land, and community.
"It is my hope that if Pope John Paul II Academy has decided that their decision is final, instead of parent's signing their children up as students at one of the other 4 campuses, they will instead write or
speak directly with the Archdicese and St. Mark's Church in an effort to reopen St. Mark's as a parish run school. We were told at the meeting that 'parish run schools no longer work.' I would like the St. Mark's community to come together to prove Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy wrong. Parish run schools can work."