It’s a very sad day for the local school community as an announcement circulated on social media stating that Wildwood Catholic and Cape Trinity Catholic Schools will not re-open in the fall. An announcement came from the Camden Diocese stating that the schools are closing, along with three other schools in the Diocese. The letter notes that Wildwood Catholic High School was only operating with 140 students over the past two years, and the schools were only able to operate via $750,000 in loans provided to the schools directly. The letter notes that the coronavirus pandemic as enrollment estimations are even lower, and hopeful fund raising campaigns now appear to be “bleak”. The letter includes three names at the bottom, including Joseph Cray, principal, at Wildwood Catholic High School.
Here is the official press release from the Diocese of Camden website:
The Diocese of Camden announced today that five schools in the diocese will close, effective the end of the current school term on June 30, 2020. The three elementary schools and two high schools are:
- Good Shepherd Regional Elementary School in Collingswood
- Saint Joseph Regional Elementary School in Hammonton
- Cape Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Wildwood
- Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton
- Wildwood Catholic High School in Wildwood
The decision to close the schools is difficult. Years of dwindling community support in the form of declining student enrollment and local fundraising, despite significant diocesan and parish financial support, has necessitated this decision.
The administrations, faculties, families and donors who have supported these schools should be commended for their efforts to keep these schools open and accessible. However, the decreasing priority given to Catholic education by many parents, including Catholic parents, ultimately weakened the viability of these schools.
All affected students will have the opportunity to continue their Catholic education at nearby regional Catholic elementary and high schools.
Over the last five years, each school has seen a precipitous drop in registrations despite the best efforts of the school administrators to implement new enrollment and academic initiatives and continue their traditions of excellence in education while providing a home where the Catholic faith can be taught, learned, and lived.
|2015 enrollment||2020 enrollment||% change|
|Good Shepherd Regional School||154||108||-30%|
|St. Joseph’s Elementary School||191||94||-50%|
|Wildwood Catholic High School &
Cape Trinity Catholic School
|St. Joseph’s High School||331||206||-38%|
*WCHS/CTC is a shared physical entity; while the more significant drop is affecting WCHS, it is the determination of both administrations that the closure of either school renders the other school non-viable.
Over the same time period, these three elementary schools have received a combined $3.8 million in financial support from the diocese and/or local parishes to sustain operations while keeping tuition as affordable as possible. Wildwood Catholic High School has received nearly $750,000 in support and Saint Joseph High School has received loan support totaling $1.1 million but currently carries a debt of $6.6 million.
Unfortunately, the continued loss of enrollment over that time has strained these schools’ finances to the point that even substantial diocesan and parish support can no longer meet the regular operational expenses of the schools.
Finally, compounding the already existing financial and enrollment issues at these schools is the expectation that they will suffer further negative impacts due to the economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated business shutdowns and personnel layoffs that have been felt throughout the region.
The decision to close these schools is sobering and painful. It has not been made lightly. It has been made with great deliberation, including insight from regional pastors, school advisory boards, the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Finance Council, the Office of Catholic Schools and the Diocesan Finance Office.
“Closing a Catholic school is gut-wrenching for everyone involved, from the principal and pastor to the superintendent and bishop. However, as stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us, we came to the difficult conclusion that low enrollment at these schools caused the strain on the funds available to become too great,” said Dr. Bill Watson, Superintendent of Schools. “I am deeply grateful to the faculty and staff who have given so much to these schools and to the dedicated parents who have continued to send their children to them. We look forward to welcoming these families into another Catholic school community next year.”