By the grace of God…

Ap­peals from St. Lauren­ti­us Ele­ment­ary School in Fishtown and St. George Ele­ment­ary in Port Rich­mond were gran­ted last week. The schools will re­main open.

Fishtown’s St. Lauren­ti­us Church filled with res­id­ents for a weeknight ser­vice last Thursday.

And every­one wore a smile.

Earli­er that day, pa­rish­ion­ers learned the out­come of an ap­peal that ad­min­is­trat­ors of the St. Lauren­ti­us Ele­ment­ary School had filed with the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia.

The 120-year-old school had been spared clos­ure in June.

ldquo;I al­ways felt com­fort­able with our facts,” said an elated AJ Thom­son, a law­yer and fath­er of a first-grader at the school. “But I wasn’t sure that this would be something the arch­diocese would give us … but we have a vi­brant neigh­bor­hood and we are go­ing to grow.”

In Janu­ary, in an ef­fort to slash costs and trim schools with low en­roll­ment, the arch­diocese an­nounced plans to shut­ter or merge five high schools and 45 ele­ment­ary schools — in­clud­ing St. Lauren­ti­us — in its five-county re­gion.

St. Lauren­ti­us was among schools that filed form­al ap­peals with the arch­diocese, hope­ful of re­vers­ing those de­cisions.

Last week, the arch­diocese ap­proved ap­peals for 18 of the 24 ele­ment­ary schools that sub­mit­ted them. De­cisions on ap­peals for high schools have been post­poned un­til later this week, ac­cord­ing to an arch­dioces­an an­nounce­ment last week.

ldquo;I re­cog­nize how anxious all of those af­fected by this de­cision are to hear the fi­nal out­come,” said a state­ment from Phil­adelphia Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput. “I want to see this re­solved too, but this de­cision is too im­port­ant to be made without con­sid­er­ing ab­so­lutely every fact and all ser­i­ous, sub­stant­ive pro­pos­als even if they don’t fit the time frame ori­gin­ally set.  We owe it to our teach­ers, ad­min­is­trat­ors, stu­dents and school fam­il­ies.”

As St. Lauren­ti­us Church filled with pa­rish­ion­ers last Thursday, chil­dren — wear­ing sweat­ers with “St. Lauren­ti­us Lions” on the front — cel­eb­rated the day with cheers.

In fact, Chuck Valentine, a res­id­ent who vo­lun­teered his time to help put to­geth­er the ap­peal, was ap­plauded for his ef­forts.

ldquo;This was a big pro­cess, I’m glad we got through it,” said Valentine.

Dur­ing re­marks be­fore the crowd, Valentine ap­plauded the arch­diocese’s de­cision to hear ap­peals and, in turn, to per­mit St. Lauren­ti­us to con­tin­ue provid­ing neigh­bor­hood young­sters with a Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion.

ldquo;We are de­lighted with the de­cision,” said Sis­ter Rita Aponik, prin­cip­al of St. Lauren­ti­us. “Every­body felt a great weight rolled off of our backs. We are happy to be here to­night.”

Rich Lev­ins, a mem­ber of the board of the Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict, a loc­al group fun­ded by Sug­ar­House Casino to provide mon­et­ary sup­port for com­munity ef­forts, said that St. Lauren­ti­us School will soon re­ceive a $25,000 grant for new win­dows throughout the build­ing.

“I give cred­it to the arch­diocese for look­ing at the school again,” Lev­ins said of the ap­peals pro­cess.

Elaine McK­night, an eighth-grade teach­er at the school, was con­fid­ent about the school’s fu­ture.

ldquo;We think it’s im­port­ant for par­ents to be able to send their kids to a neigh­bor­hood school,” she said. “Every suc­cess makes us work for more … we want the kids in this com­munity to suc­ceed.”

St Lauren­ti­us wasn’t the only par­ish cel­eb­rat­ing last week. Port Rich­mond’s St. George School and its prin­cip­al, Dan Markowski, also learned on Thursday that the school had won its ap­peal.

ldquo;We were com­pletely con­fid­ent in the in­form­a­tion we presen­ted,” he said. “It feels like a weight has been lif­ted off our shoulders.”

Markowski de­scribed the ap­peal pro­cess as a group ef­fort. When the school learned it was on the list for clos­ure, Markowski said, “it lit a fire un­der a lot of people.”

ldquo;It wasn’t just us, this was a group ef­fort,” he said. “We are just thank­ful that the arch­diocese saw our reas­ons to stay open.” ••

Man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus