The hundreds of students and dozens of staff members at St. William, Our Lady of Ransom and Our Lady of Consolation elementary schools left their buildings for the final time on Thursday and Friday, as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed them for good because of low enrollment.
But what about the textbooks, desks, boards, tables, chairs, drawers, filing cabinets, bookshelves, crates, carts, credenzas, overhead projectors, classrooms materials and medical and academic records?
“The equipment follows the students. That’s the law of the land,” said Grace McGuirl, the retiring principal of Our Lady of Ransom.
The school closings impacted three neighborhoods.
People driving on Roosevelt Boulevard around Knorr Street in Castor Gardens will see an empty Our Lady of Ransom.
Motorists on Rising Sun Avenue near Robbins Street in Lawndale will find a vacant St. William.
Drivers heading to I-95 on Princeton Avenue in Tacony have seen the last Our Lady of Consolation child walk down the steps, though the flashing yellow 15 mph school speed limit sign continued to blink Friday afternoon.
Most of the Our Lady of Ransom students will head to Resurrection Regional Catholic School in Rhawnhurst. The majority of St. William students will travel to St. Cecilia in Fox Chase, though a few dozen will enroll at Presentation BVM in Cheltenham. Our Lady of Consolation students were directed to go to St. Matthew in West Mayfair.
McGuirl, who will sit on the Resurrection advisory board, will remain at Our Lady of Ransom, along with the school secretary, until June 29 to determine what goes and what stays.
The teachers and students have already done most of the packing up and taking down of decorations.
“We do these things at the end of the school year anyway,” said McGuirl, who was principal of Frankford’s Mater Dolorosa when it closed in 2003.
Our Lady of Ransom was seeing a slight increase in its enrollment and was making some significant investments in the school. It appealed the decision of a blue ribbon commission to a committee.
The appeal was denied, but the parish and school experienced some closure when Archbishop Charles Chaput sent a letter, explaining that the archdiocese was interested in long-range sustainability.
Our Lady of Ransom is expected to lease its school for several months to New Foundations Charter High School, which is renovating its future home near Rhawn Street and Torresdale Avenue in Holmesburg. New Foundations has already delivered its textbooks for storage to its new home.
The Our Lady of Ransom school building will also be used on Sundays for its Parish Religious Education Program (PREP), formerly known as Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).
McGuirl thanked the students, staff and Home and School Association for contributing to the Our Lady of Ransom style and pride and credited the faculty with planning a closing Mass and awards ceremony that was a celebration of 56 years and featured an appearance by a former pastor, the Rev. Bill McGeown.
The principal said there’s a certain positive spirit to the forthcoming merger.
“It’s the spirit of Our Lady of Ransom herself,” she said.
Over at St. William, which opened in 1924, the teachers had five months to pack up, as the parish did not appeal.
“Little by little, I was taking things away, but the bulk of it was the last couple of weeks,” said fifth-grade teacher Kathy McDonough. “I have twenty years worth of supplies. We cleaned out desks and closets the last couple of weeks in earnest.”
Seven lay faculty members will continue to teach — five at St. Cecilia, one at Plymouth Meeting Friends and one at Good Shepherd Regional in Collingswood, N.J.
Moving day to St. Cecilia was Saturday.
Chairs, desks and other materials were assembled in hallways and marked with directions such as, “Mrs. Moser new grade 2” and “Mrs. Brown new grade 5.”
“The technology and a lot of desks, chairs and furniture are following the students to St. Cecilia,” said principal Sister Catherine Clarke.
McDonough, who will not teach next year, wrote, “Free to Good Home or Trash” on some of the stuff she didn’t need.
Other desks and chairs remained piled on top of each other in classrooms for future use, either for St. William PREP or a new school. The Rev. Joe Watson, the pastor, said Tacony Academy Charter School has inquired about leasing the school buildings.
Sister Catherine, who still maintains that the parish should have asked to join the growing number of mission schools, will become assistant to the principal at St. Rose of Lima in West Philadelphia. Vice principal Sister Jane McFadden will also be heading to West Philly, in the same capacity at St. Francis de Sales.
Sister Catherine and school secretary Janet Walsh will stay around until the end of the month to take care of odds and ends, including the principal’s office.
“I have stuff spread all over the place,” Sister Catherine said. “Next week and the week after, everything will get straightened up.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org