North Catholic News: It's Not Over Yet

Northeast Catholic's Eugene Byrd breaks a lengthy run in the 4th quarter that set up his game-winning touchdown. Northeast Catholic had a dramatic, come-from-behind 28-22 victory over Frankford. This is the final football game for Northeast Catholic which will be closed at the end of the school year. EDITOR'S NOTE: Northeast Catholic has been playing Frankford in football on Thanksgiving day since 1928. With the decison made to close Northeast Catholic, this will be the end of the tradition and the 82nd game in rivalry will be their final football game. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer ) EDITOR'S NOTE: NCATH26P, 11/25/2009, PA. NORTHEAST CATHOLIC vs. FRANKFORD, LaSALLE UNIVERSITY, PHILA., PA.

So, they were talking, after all.

Last week, I wrote of persistent and excited rumors that North Catholic High School, scheduled to shut its doors for good in June, might reincarnate as an independently run Cristo Rey High School.   It was all that everyone at the beloved Torresdale Ave. institution was talking about - except that the Philadelphia Archdiocese put the kibosh on the story when the Daily News called to get the skinny on the chatter.

"It's all rumors," Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell told my colleague Val Russ. "There have been no negotiations. North Catholic is not going to become a Cristo Rey school and, sadly, North Catholic will be closing in June."

So imagine the confused joy felt by North's supporters yesterday when they learned that, indeed, there was some meat on The Rumor's bones: A feasibility study will be conducted by North Catholic's Alumni Association and by Cristo Rey to determine whether the school might indeed join the Cristo Rey Network.

My colleague Rich Hoffman writes that a press release announcing the study was handed out at the end of the yesterday's annual Turkey Bowl - the annual Thanksgiving Day football smack-down between North's Falcons and Frankford High School's Pioneers.

The short, carefully worded release makes it clear that the archdiocese has no intention of keeping the school open. It also makes clear what connected alums have been telling me - that that archdiocese has held the cards in the feasibility decision, since Cristo Rey and the alums wouldn't be able to proceed with the study without the archdiocese giving them permission to do so.

The study might determine, of course, that North can't work as a Cristo Rey school, for any number of reasons. There may not be enough students and families to support the Cristo Rey model (the network educates low-income students only) or enough community employers to supply the jobs that support the model's work-study component.  As I wrote on a recent blog post, the conversion is a complicated long shot that would no doubt greatly alter North in unexpected and maybe unwelcome ways.

On the other hand, if a Cristo Rey school rose from North's ashes, Catholic secondary education would remain alive in a section of the city that certainly seems to want it, even if parents can't afford its cost.

Stay tuned.