Thursday, May 23, 2024

Saint Columba Catholic School to Close

Operations No Longer Sustainable Due to Financial Health and Low Enrollment

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Saint Columba Catholic School, operated by Saint Columba Catholic Church, Bloomsburg, will permanently close its doors at the end of the current school year. The pastor, and parish councils, in consultation with the Diocesan Office of Catholic Education, recommended the closure of St. Columba Catholic School at the conclusion of this school year. In following Diocesan policies, the recommendation for closure was submitted and accepted by Bishop Timothy C. Senior, Bishop of Harrisburg.

“We know this news is difficult to hear, but the reality is that, as a parish, we can no longer afford to operate a Catholic school. Incredible generosity has been seen over the years from you, our families, and our parishioners and community. We are exceedingly grateful to all those who have supported our school. However, as costs rise and enrollment decreases, we find ourselves in an unsustainable situation. Continuing to operate the school will place the parish in significant financial jeopardy,” said Father Richard Mowery, pastor.

Saint Columba Catholic School has been faced with declining enrollment and increasing operating deficits for several years. The school has experienced a decrease in enrollment of nearly 60% since October 2020, going from 84 students to the current 34. Earlier this school year, the fifth through eighth grades were discontinued due to enrollment and staffing challenges. Although school and parish leadership intended to resume a fifth grade for the 2024-25 school year, the financial situation of the school has reached a point where continued operation is no longer an option. While this closure is heartbreaking for the Saint Columba community, Fr. Mowery and the Diocese will be supporting families and staff during this period of transition.

“In the coming weeks, the school administration, along with the Diocesan Office of Catholic Education, will assist our families choosing to continue their Catholic education transition to Saint Joseph in Danville or Our Lady of Lourdes. We will also work with our faculty and staff in securing new employment. In addition, we will help families choosing public education to coordinate with their local school districts to ensure a smooth transition. A final Mass for our school community, with Bishop Senior, will be on Wednesday, May 29 at 10 a.m. This Mass will give all of us an opportunity to come together as one Catholic family, to share our joys, sorrows and hopes at the conclusion of the school year,” said Fr. Mowery. “We know this is heartbreaking news. Our hearts are also breaking. However, in times of hardship and grief, we remind ourselves that God’s grace is abundant. It is my prayer that, as a community, we will come together in these final weeks of Saint Columba Catholic School to celebrate all the good accomplished inside these walls over the past 70 years.”

St. Columba Catholic School, a K through fourth grade school, currently has 34 students and 13 staff. The schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg enroll nearly 10,000 students and they continue to be recognized for their rigorous academic education while providing moral and faith formation according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. To learn more about Catholic education in the Diocese of Harrisburg, visit www.GoCatholicSchools.org.

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