COLLINGSWOOD, NJ — Good Shepherd Regional Elementary School in Collingswood is among five schools in the Diocese of Camden that will close, effective June 30, 2020, the diocese announced on Friday.
Saint Joseph Regional Elementary School in Hammonton and Cape Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Wildwood are also closing, as are Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton, Wildwood Catholic High School, according to the diocese.
Students enrolled in these schools will have the chance to continue their education at nearby catholic schools.
“The decision to close the schools is difficult,” the diocese said in a statement. “Years of dwindling community support in the form of declining student enrollment and local fundraising, despite significant diocesan and parish financial support, has necessitated this decision.
“The administrations, faculties, families and donors who have supported these schools should be commended for their efforts to keep these schools open and accessible. However, the decreasing priority given to Catholic education by many parents, including Catholic parents, ultimately weakened the viability of these schools.”
Good Shepherd has seen a 30 percent decrease in attendance since 2015, when enrollment was 154 students. This year, enrollment was 108, according to the diocese. During the same period, the three elementary schools have received a combined $3.8 million in financial support from the diocese and/or local parishes to sustain operations while keeping tuition as affordable as possible, according to the diocese.
“Unfortunately, the continued loss of enrollment over that time has strained these schools’ finances to the point that even substantial diocesan and parish support can no longer meet the regular operational expenses of the schools,” the diocese said. “Finally, compounding the already existing financial and enrollment issues at these schools is the expectation that they will suffer further negative impacts due to the economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated business shutdowns and personnel layoffs that have been felt throughout the region.”
The decision to close the schools was made with great deliberation, including insight from regional pastors, school advisory boards, the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Finance Council, the Office of Catholic Schools and the Diocesan Finance Office, the diocese said.
Good Shepherd is for students in grades pre-K through eighth. Graduates have gone on to attend Camden Catholic, Gloucester Catholic and Paul VI high schools, according to the school’s website. Nearby affiliated prep schools include Bishop Eustace, Merion Mercy Academy and St. Augustine Prep.
“Closing a Catholic school is gut-wrenching for everyone involved, from the principal and pastor to the superintendent and bishop. However, as stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us, we came to the difficult conclusion that low enrollment at these schools caused the strain on the funds available to become too great,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bill Watson said. “I am deeply grateful to the faculty and staff who have given so much to these schools and to the dedicated parents who have continued to send their children to them. We look forward to welcoming these families into another Catholic school community next year.”