West Philadelphia Catholic High School, a Lasallian school, will close at the end of this school year as part of a sweeping plan to stabilize Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and position schools for future growth. West Catholic is one of four high schools that are recommended to close, along with 44 elementary schools.
Faced with declining enrollment and challenging financial realities, a 16-member Blue Ribbon Commission began a yearlong process in December 2010 to examine each level of Archdiocesan education. The commission’s report shows West Catholic has a current enrollment of 360 students, which is 27.7% capacity. The rate of decline has been accelerating in the past three years.
West Catholic President Brother Tim Ahern said the school would not appeal the decision. Appeals are allowed if a school feels the factual information reported is inaccurate. Bro. Tim said the information on West Catholic is accurate, therefore he did not want to “prolong the agony” and raise false hopes by appealing.
“We’ve done our best and we just hope that God has a plan for these kids,” he said. “That they can move on to another school.”
West Catholic opened for boys in 1916 and welcomed girls in 1926. The schools merged in 1989. At its peak, West had 3,000 boys and 3,000 girls. West Catholic has produced more than 60,000 graduates. Some 300 Christian Brothers, approximately 500 priests, 1,500 sisters, 6 bishops and 1 cardinal (Cardinal John O’Connor of New York) have graduated from the school. West received the Federal Government’s School of Excellence Award in 1980, which was the first year for the award.
West Catholic provided students with $6.2 million in financial aid since 2005 when Bro. Tim became president, but was not able to give any this year. Bro. Tim cited the failing economy, unprofitable investments, and a decline in donations as factors.
As the West Catholic community mourns the impending closure, it is preparing its students to continue their high school careers at other schools by providing resources.
“The memories will never fade away, that’s for sure,” Bro. Tim said.