Our Lady of Grace’s closure darkens school news

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The education news across the River Parishes was solid this month, highlighted by Louisiana Department of Education report cards that largely shined a positive light on the region’s public school systems.

However, the news Our Lady of Grace is closing at the end of this academic year should not get lost in the headlines.

Our Lady of Grace, a prekindergarten through eighth grade Catholic school in Reserve, has opened its doors to countless students for more than 80 years, but started this academic year with 179 students, ultimately leading to its demise.

Father Christopher Amadi, who oversees the church parish and school, said a lack of students not on scholarship left a small base of tuition-paying families. 

He said an overall declining enrollment made the closure decision inevitable. Hard facts aside, it was with genuine emotion that Amadi spoke last week.

“… (E)verybody understood,” he said. “It is really very emotional, and I ask that you put us in your prayers.”

Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, shot down the suggestion that overall participation in Catholic schooling in decreasing in South Louisiana.

Lancaster told L’OBSERVATEUR there are 37,000 students in Catholic education presently in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“If you look around our region, we have community leaders that were educated in Catholic schools that choose to send their kids to Catholic schools,” Lancaster said. “We are, number-wise, the 10th largest diocese in the United States as far as the number of kids that attend Catholic schools. I think we are very strong with 37,000 kids in Catholic schools right now.

“There are a lot of parents that make great sacrifices to send their kids to Catholic schools. That is something that is so very much appreciated. I think they do that because they see what a Catholic education means for their child.”

Things were much brighter in the public school arena, where St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools continued to improve its District Performance Score, raising it nearly three points and maintaining a “C” score.

St. James Parish Public Schools maintained its “B” District Performance Score in 2014, with a score of 88.1. The 2014 score is a slight decline from the 88.8 score a year before.

St. Charles Parish Public Schools maintained its “A” District Performance Score this year and is one of 10 districts in the state receiving the score. The district’s performance score improved to 105.9 in 2014, up from 104.3 from the year before.

The strong showing from the River Parishes’ public schools should reinvigorate those that work in and volunteer at those locations that their hard work is paying dividends.

Our young students have the tools locally to succeed. Now is the time to continue our support of their education.