NBCPhiladelphia.com - Marisa Brahney
Thousands of Philadelphia-area Catholic High School students, parents and alumni are celebrating after a decision was made to keep their schools open. Now they can finally begin to plan for the future.
All four Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese will remain open, according to the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Charles Chaput made the announcement on Friday afternoon, saying the community support was substantial. He also pressed state lawmakers to do more -- much more -- to help.
In his message to lawmakers, Archbishop Chaput said, "we need expanded EITC (education-incentive tax credits) funds and opportunity scholarships to help our schools survive." The Archbishop said that without that support, the fate of the schools would be right back to where they were a few weeks ago, when they were slated for closure.
"If our people, our elected officials and our wider donor-communities, help us, I believe these high schools can survive and thrive," the Archbishop said.
The cash pledges and donations to keep the schools open is at about $12 million right now and expected to be at $15 million by May. The plan to keep the high schools afloat includes establishing an independent foundation, called Faith in the Future: The Fund for Educating Tomorrow's Leaders. The foundation will oversee long-term funding with the goal of collecting an additional $85 million in the next five years.
In early January, the Archdiocese announced that it would close or merge four of its high schools and 44 elementary school, which was a shock to the community. That recommendation came from the Blue Ribbon Commission, which determined that with a 35-percent drop in enrollment in the last decade, it was the only viable solution.
Schools that wanted to appeal their fate were allowed present a plan to stay open. Those plans were reviewed by the BRC and the Archbishop, who had the final say in the matter. Last week, Many did. Last week, 18 Catholic schools won their appeals, but the Archdiocese took an additional week to figure out the fate of the high schools -- Bonner and Prendergast, St. Huberts, Conwell-Egan and West Philadelphia Catholic.