Almost two weeks have passed since more than 1.5 million Philadelphia-area Roman Catholics learned that a Blue Ribbon Commission, appointed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, recommended the closing of 44 parish grade schools and four archdiocesan high schools at the end of June.
Their mission, as given them by former Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali in December 2010, was to develop a plan for the sustainability of Catholic education in an area where Catholic school enrollment has decreased 72 percent since 1961.
Their recommendations for Delaware County include the closure of one, co-institutional high school and four parish grade schools leaving local Catholics with two archdiocesan high schools, 13 parish grade schools and what the commission has defined as nine regional grade schools.
It is hard to dispute the need for Catholic school reorganization when looking at the statistics. In Delaware County alone, parish grade school enrollment has gone from 39,695 in 48 schools in 1963 to 8,291 in 28 schools. A decreasing birth rate and westward migration of the population to Chester and Montgomery counties are, in part, to blame for the declining enrollment.
What can and should be questioned is the logic for some of the Blue Ribbon Commissionâ€™s recommended closures.
While the 16 business and education experts who served on the commission should be commended for their volunteerism, it is clear they did not make site visits to all, if any, of the schools. [More]