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St. Charles announces school restructuring

Updated 11 a.m. ET, 1/17/2014

Rose McDermott, president of the St. Charles PTO, said that parents met with Father Grinnell Jan. 16 to talk about the possibility of keeping the school open and were told that the decision would not be reversed.

Father Grinnell will hold a meeting with parents Jan. 23 to answer questions and strategize about what to do next.

Parents should hear from parent leaders from each class and also from the PTO.

Parents are concerned that they need to move quickly. Some schools are holding open houses for St. Charles families in addition to the ones scheduled for Catholic Schools Week. (See below.)

The Office of Catholic Schools said that St. Rita also will hold a meeting Jan. 21 for any St. Charles families who are interested in attending next year. According to McDermott, St. Agnes will have an open house Jan. 24.

McDermott said a group of parents plans to send a letter to the diocese and Bishop Loverde to let them know how the school closing is affecting them.

Original story at bottom.

See the follow-up story in our Jan. 23 Catholic Schools Week issue.

Find out more

To learn more about the restructuring decision, call St. Charles Borromeo Church at 703/527-5500.

To learn more about the St. Charles parents' meeting, call PTO President Rose McDermott at 703/225-9972.

Open houses for some schools near St. Charles*

- Corpus Christi School, 3301 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, Monday, Jan. 27, 5:30 to 8 p.m.

- St. Agnes School, 2024 N. Randolph St., Arlington, Friday, Jan. 31, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

- St. Ann School, 980 N. Frederick St., Arlington, Sunday, Jan. 26, 10:30 to 1 p.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 28, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

- St. James School, 830 W. Broad St., Falls Church, Sunday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m. to noon, and Tuesday, Jan. 28, 9 to 11 a.m.

- St. Rita School, 3801 Russell Road, Alexandria, Sunday, Jan. 26, noon to 1:30 p.m.

- St. Thomas More Cathedral School, 105 N. Thomas St., Arlington, Sunday, Jan. 26, noon to 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 29, 9 to 11 a.m.

Outside of the events for Catholic Schools Week, St. Rita School will host a meeting for any St. Charles families Jan. 21 at 8:15 a.m. in their development office. St. Agnes also will have a meeting Jan. 24.

*Information from the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Call the schools if you have specific questions.

Original story (below)

Father Horace H. "Tuck" Grinnell, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, announced in a letter to parents of St. Charles School, dated Jan. 13, the restructuring of St. Charles School into the St. Charles Early Childhood Center and the closing of the elementary and middle school portion of the school this June.

Father Grinnell said that the decision was the result of the growth of the current preschool program and the dwindling enrollment in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"This decision was not arrived at lightly, especially considering that St. Charles is the original Catholic school in Arlington County and we just celebrated our 90th anniversary," Father Grinnell wrote in the letter. "What defeated us in the end was our low enrollment."

A private school needs to operate at 90 percent capacity to be fully viable, according to national statistics. Father Grinnell said that St. Charles began the school year at 52 percent capacity, or 117 students, in grades K through eighth, which led to this difficult decision.

"No Catholic school can survive with such low numbers," Father Grinnell wrote. "As of November, the church has had to subsidize the school $90,000, in addition to our regular $15,600 monthly subsidy to the school. Financially, our parish simply does not have the income to support the school on this level."

Father Grinnell consulted with Sister Bernadette McManigal, diocesan superintendent of schools, and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, who agreed with the decision, the letter said. The elementary and middle school will close at the end of this school year, in June. He added that to continue giving parishioners the benefits of a Catholic education, local Catholic schools in the area have agreed to welcome St. Charles students.

The preschool program at St. Charles has been successful over the last 10 years, growing from one class with 12 students a decade ago, to six classes with 92 students.

"I am sad now that I have to let the elementary and middle school parts of St. Charles School go," Father Grinnell wrote. "This is not the end of my support for Catholic education. We will continue to minister to families and children on the preschool level."

Read More

We will be expanding on this story soon.

Contact Maria-Pia Negro to share your opinions about this story (mnegro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @MNegroACH).

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014