To address a decrease in school-aged children in certain parts of southwestern Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is implementing a new "consortium model" for Catholic education.
The decision to create a more regional approach to supporting Catholic elementary schools follows a diocesan-wide study conducted in cooperation with the Alliance for Catholic Education from the University of Notre Dame.
The new model will affect six parishes in the East Hills: St. Maurice, Word of God, Good Shepherd, St. John Fisher, Madonna del Castello and St. Colman. Schools at Good Shepherd and Word of God will close in June. The six parishes will then support the existing school at St. Maurice which will be renamed East Catholic. It's expected to enroll up to 400 students for the next school year. Tuition will be reduced to $3,200 for the first child, $2,500 for the second and $1,500 for the third.
Also in June, schools at St. Angela Merici and St. Joseph Regional will merge into one school to be located at the St. Angela Merici site in White Oak. Eight parishes in the McKeesport-White Oak area will provide students for that school: St. Angela Merici, St. Mark, St. Patrick, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Jude, St. Michael, Queen of the Rosary and Corpus Christi. Tuition will be reduced to $2,700 for the first student, $1,500 for the second and $500 for the third from a family. Enrollment is expected to be about 300 students in the fall.
Father Kris D. Stubna, diocesan Secretary for Catholic Education, says Catholic schools are not the only ones affected.
"It's just an older community," Stubna said. "There are less kids of school age, and I think we're all trying to deal with the demographic that is shrinking."
Stubna says their focus is maintaining a strong Catholic educational program.
"This new model gives us an opportunity to work in those two communities and really create a quality program that's cost effective and we believe can be viable for the long run," he said.