Saturday, December 20, 2014

Move over, North Catholic and Dougherty

The Camden Diocese has announced the closure this June of 72-year-old Wildwood Catholic High School.

Move over, North Catholic and Dougherty

A supporter protests the announced closure of Wildwood Catholic High School this coming June. (Photo from savewildwoodcatholic.com)
A supporter protests the announced closure of Wildwood Catholic High School this coming June. (Photo from savewildwoodcatholic.com)

This unexpected closing-of-Catholic-high-schools thing has gotten contagious.

Tonight at 7 p.m., as parents and supporters of North Catholic High School meet at the Torresdale Ave. campus to learn more about North possibly joining the Cristo Rey network of independent Catholic schools, parents down at the shore will attend their own meeting to see if they can prevent the shut-down of Wildwood Catholic High School.

The Camden Diocese announced last week that the 72-year-old school would close this coming June 20th. The reason: declining enrollment  - 194 students, down from over 300 five years ago - resulting in too little tuition to keep the doors open and the lights on. The dioceses says the deficit for running the school is expected to top $500,000 this year and rise to $900,00 next year.

Once Wildwood Catholic closes, the diocese plans to consolidate three Cape May County grammar schools - St. Raymonds, St. Thomas and Star of the Sea - at the high-school property.  The new entity will be called Cape Trinity Catholic School.

The diocese hopes that Wildwood Catholic students will commute 40 miles up the coast to Holy Spirit High School in Absecon and is offering $1,000 vouchers to ease the pain of transfer to Holy Spirit or to another Catholic high school of their choice.
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To say families are reeling is an understatement. Go to their newly formed website, Save Wildwood Catholic, and click on the Letters link. Reaction ranges from feelings of heartbreak and abandonment to rage and loss of faith. In fact, if you replace the name "Wildwood Catholic" with either "North Catholic" or "Cardinal Dougherty" - the Philly archdiocese high schools heading to the gallows in June - the reaction of parents at the shore is indistinguishable from that of North and Dougherty parents.

With one notable exception: Philadelphia parents believe that their urban schools are being closed so that the Philadephia Archdiocese can expand secondary-education options in the wealthier suburbs. At the shore, Wildwood catholic parents believe the school is being shuttered so that the Camden Dicoese can better serve its urban flock.

In both cases, parents feel that the closure decisions were made without their input.

Tonight's meeting to Save Wildwood Catholic will be held at 7 p.m., at the North Wildwood Firehouse, 15th St. and Central. Ave.  For further details, drop an e-mail to info@savewildwoodcatholic.com.   

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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