Developed by parish leadership in conjunction the Delaware County Advisory Council, the Office of Catholic Education, and neighboring parishes, the plan seeks to provide affordable and viable educational options for current parish school students.
Background Regarding Today’s Announcement
Today, Reverend Alan J. Okon, Pastor of Saint Francis de Sales Parish (SFDS) in Lenni, Delaware County, shared a transitional plan with all SFDS parish school families that is scheduled to take effect with the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
The plan was developed over the past several months by SFDS parish and school leadership as well as the Co-Chairs of the Delaware County Advisory Council (DCAC) and the Office of Catholic Education (OCE). Working together, these entities studied a number of challenges faced by the school community over the past several years including steadily declining enrollments and rising educational costs.
They also sought to determine the best strategy to provide accessible, affordable, and viable Catholic education options for SFDS school families in the face of those challenges. Currently, enrollment stands at 124 students and the in-parish tuition rate is $3,640.00 per pupil. The current projected enrollment for 2016-2017 is 118 students. In order to balance the budget next year, tuition would need to be raised by $2,000.00 per student and the multiple student tuition discount would have to be discontinued. Additionally, the parish would need to provide a subsidy of $160,000.00 to the school.
As enrollment has declined, educational costs have risen due to fixed expenses such as teacher salaries, school utilities, and ongoing and deferred maintenance for the school building. The parish has reached a juncture where it can no longer subsidize school operations without jeopardizing the fiscal stability of the parish as a whole. If the parish became financially insolvent, it would need to close or merge.
Information Regarding Today’s Announcement
After much careful study and prayerful discernment, along with extensive consultation with the Co-Chairs of DCAC, OCE, and neighboring parishes, Father Okon has announced a plan to provide for continued Catholic education for SFDS school families.
Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, current school families will have the option of transitioning to one of four stronger Catholic schools bordering SFDS. Those options are outlined in further detail below. All of the schools listed are firmly committed to working with families to make the transition as seamless and as convenient as possible.
Primary School Transition Option:
Holy Family Regional Catholic School in Aston is 2.7 miles away. It has the space, capacity, and academic programs necessary to welcome all current SFDS students. Holy Family is billed as the primary option as one of the strategies of DCAC is to further strengthen existing regional schools when possible.
Additional School Transition Options:
In an effort to provide SFDS school families with the maximum amount of choice in furthering the Catholic education of their children, three additional schools in close proximity are being offered as options. They include Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish School (2.1 miles distant), Mother of Providence Regional School (7.4 miles distant), and Saint Cornelius Parish School (8.2 miles distant).
Current SFDS school families have already been provided with packets regarding each of the schools noted above, including tuition fees, contact information, maps, and other pertinent details. All of the welcoming schools will hold open houses or visitation programs for SFDS families in the near future as they seek to make a decision about plans for their children for the 2016-2017 school year. Families have been asked to share their decision with Father Okon by June 1, 2016.
Transition Grant for Families Electing Holy Family Regional Catholic School:
Holy Family Regional Catholic School, with the support of DCAC and the Foundation for Catholic Education, will offer transitional grants to SFDS families who choose the regional school. Each child will receive a $1,000 tuition credit for the 2016-2017 school year.
SFDS Parish is committed to providing financial assistance during this transition. To support active parish families who choose a Catholic education, a $1,000 subsidy will be paid by the parish per student each year if they attend any one of the surrounding Catholic schools offered as a transition option. In many cases, this will result in a tuition rate that is lower than what families had been paying previously.
Further Communication Regarding Today’s Announcement
Detailed information regarding the transition has already been shared with the faculty and all current SFDS school families. Announcements will be made at all Masses at SFDS this weekend to inform the broader parish community.
Editor’s Note: For additional information about Saint Francis de Sales Parish and its school, please visit www.sfdschurch.org. For more information about Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, please visit www.aopcatholicschools.org.
 The Delaware County Advisory Council (DCAC) works closely with all the Catholic elementary schools and pastors in Delaware County, as well as OCE. Within the Archdiocesan governance structure for elementary education, DCAC is one of six County Councils that are part of the Executive Board of Elementary Education (EBEE) that is chaired by Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, the Auxiliary Bishop who oversees Catholic Education. DCAC’s primary mission is to work at the local level to develop strategies and plans to sustain, and grow, Catholic school enrollment in Delaware County Catholic schools. DCAC’s other main objective is to provide Catholic education to as many students and families as possible.