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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.