BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Friday morning in the Westerfield Center at the Catholic Life Center, Bishop Robert Muench says Redemptorist Jr. and Sr. High School will be closing the doors for good on June 30, 2015.
Bishop Muench says the school is closing because of low enrollment.
Redemptorist Elementary School will, however, remain open.
A statement released by the Diocese of Baton Rouge says Redemptorist High School has served the Church and the Baton Rouge community extraordinarily well since its founding as a parish school in 1949.
After much prayer, reflection, and consultation by board members, administrators, and diocesan leaders, low enrollment has caused the difficult, but necessary, decision to discontinue operations of the junior high and high school (Grades 7 – 12) at the end of the current school year (June 30, 2015).
From almost 1100 students in 1980 to a projected 150 in 2015, the challenge of declining enrollment has been well-known, documented and studied.
In the last dozen years, five different feasibility studies and collaborative processes were conducted to determine ways to sustain the program; nonetheless, recent developments in recruitment have made
"It's a tough, sad day," says Barry Stewart, an alumnus who formerly served as president of the Redemptorist High School Advisory Board. "I've been a part of Redemptorist since I was 12 years old as a 7th grader and been involved in the school ever since. My boys went there. My sister and my niece all graduated from there. We are a Redemptorist family."
In October 2014, the State of Louisiana Scholarship Program notified the school that it would be ineligible to accept any new scholarship students for the 2015-16 school year. This resulted in a significant diminishment in the number of new students who could apply to Redemptorist High.
Since 2010, when St. Isidore and St. Gerard Schools merged to form Redemptorist Elementary, the enrollment has been large enough to sustain the school. Earlier this year, an application was made to expand to include Grades 7 & 8, which is the traditional configuration for Catholic schools. A grade will be added each year to accomplish that structure. So, in 2015-16, Grade 7 will be added. In 2016-17, Grade 8 will be added.
It should be noted that although Redemptorist Elementary has also been notified it will be ineligible to accept new students in the scholarship program for the 2015-16 school year, their projected enrollment is still large enough to cover operational expenses.
"Redemptorist was an anchor in that neighborhood and remains to this day a very vital and important part of the North Baton Rouge community," said alumni and former coach Sid Edwards.
"Its really like a family member dying and I'm not being overly dramatic when I say that. All of the time and memories have - its really heartbreaking," said alumni and former coach Guy Mistretta.
"[Redemptorist] was never intended by the diocese to leave the school open, because if you want something open, you are going to fight to keep it open and the fight wasn't there It was never intended to remain open. We all knew this day was coming- we just didn't know when," said Edwards.
What will be done to help Redemptorist students apply to other Catholic schools?
Each school in the Diocese of Baton Rouge is site-based, with admissions policies and procedures designed by that school. The Catholic Schools Office has asked principals of Catholic schools for special consideration in welcoming the students from Redemptorist Junior and Senior High Schools. Parents will receive information and support for the admissions process from Redemptorist and the Catholic Schools Office to make it easier to approach the admissions process into other schools.
How will the State of Louisiana help students who are part of the State Scholarship Program?
Representatives from the State of Louisiana Scholarship Program have provided an information sheet that has been distributed to all parents. Additionally, they will host a meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 8:00 am in the Redemptorist High library to assist parents in the transition to another school.
What happens to student records?
The Diocese of Baton Rouge Archives Department houses all records for schools that have closed. Beginning July 2015, the Catholic Schools Office will work with the Archives Department to ensure that former students have access to their official records from Redemptorist.
There are several students in the Special Education Program currently housed at Redemptorist Junior & Senior High. What is the future for these students?
The Director of Special Education will work with families individually to place students who are currently in the program at the junior and senior high schools. Additionally, the Catholic Schools Office has already begun efforts to relocate the Dyslexia Lab to a site within the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
There are 26 full-time faculty and administration on contract for the 2014-15 school year. The non-contracted staff members total 12 full-time and 6 part-time, and there are 8 coaches who work during the athletic season and are not part of the teaching faculty.
Schools within the Diocese of Baton Rouge are site-based in their management. Therefore, schools hire all of their own faculty and staff. The Catholic Schools Office will assist Redemptorist employees interested in applying for positions in other schools within the Diocese of Baton Rouge by aiding communication of interest to the other schools throughout the diocese. Additionally, faculty and staff have already received information about the severance program from the Diocese of Baton Rouge Human Resource Office.
The Diocesan Finance & Building Committees advise the diocese on all matters relative to development and use of the property. The diocese will ensure the Redemptorist Junior & Senior High Buildings are maintained in a way that it does not become blight on the neighborhood
Redemptorist is a private, Roman Catholic school and is under the remit of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.