Closing of Saginaw Catholic school upsets parents, mayor - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Closing of Saginaw Catholic school upsets parents, mayor

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(03/18/14) - The Saginaw area will have only two catholic schools next school year.

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw has announced St. Stephen School will close and merge with St. Thomas Aquinas.

It's a decision that has many parents, and the mayor of Saginaw, disappointed.

For many people, they are losing a school that their families have attended since the 1960s. For Saginaw's mayor, he is seeing the city's last Catholic school close its doors.

"It's a sad day for many parents in this community," says Darrell Cho, who has a daughter that attends St. Stephen.

The Saginaw Area Catholic Schools board proposed the closing of St. Stephen and having one pre-school through eighth grade school, St. Thomas Aquinas in Saginaw Township. Bishop Joseph Cistone has agreed, although the president of the Saginaw Area Catholic Schools, Kim Prime, says other options to save the school were looked at.

"We considered everything," Prime said.

Dwindling enrollment at catholic schools and lack of money are causing the closing. Cho has questioned the diocese on how it funds education. In his letter explaining the move, Bishop Cistone writes that most people do not understand the complexity of either diocesan or school budgets.

"For him to say that we are uneducated about that, but not provide us with the information when we are trying to get educated, is disheartening," Cho said.

Prime says the bishop plans to work on communicating more with families on the financial status of the schools. She believes the trend of declining enrollment will change.

"We see that eventually in five years, the enrollment will stabilize," she said.

"To lose the very last school the Saginaw Diocese has in the city of Saginaw is heartbreaking for us," said Saginaw Mayor Dennis Browning.

He remembers when there were several Catholic high schools in the city. He understands the economics of the decision, but he believes it's contrary to a church's mission.

"We talk about serving the community and serving the poor and underprivileged. Saginaw certainly has our share, but yet we will move our schools away from the area. That hurts," he said.

As part of the merger, 17 teacher positions will be eliminated.

The other Catholic school remaining in the Saginaw area is Nouvel Catholic Central.

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