St. John Central High School in Bellaire will shut down permanently in June, according to Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville.
After consulting with the diocesan Catholic schools office and receiving a unanimous recommendation from the governing Board of Pastors, the decision was made to close the school.
“I am extremely disappointed,” said Bishop Monforton. “However, the enrollment, declining financial resources and support, and the estimated necessary capital expenditures are now beyond our control and leave me with no real choice.”
Over the last ten years, St. John Central High School has not had a financially sustainable enrollment. During the 2016-17 school year, the school had 91 students. The following year, enrollment dipped to just 40 students.
To combat the low enrollment, Bishop Monforton pushed forth an idea in the spring of 2016. He approved petitioning the local court to authorize the use of restricted endowment funds to subsidize the high school budget with the goal of re-growing enrollment — but by the fall of 2017, enrollment had dropped to 29 students.
“There have been many dedicated and enthusiastic people who have loved their time at St. John’s over the years, hence my sadness,” said Father Timothy McGuire, a pastoral administrator at the high school. “However, St. John’s has served the community well for decades, and its former students and staff can be very proud of their contribution to the church and the wider community.”
7News spoke to St. John Central High School Alumna Alyssa Busack, who is now a student at WVU. She said she was sad to hear the news.
“It’s such a shame that it is closing because, I mean, it’s more of a family than anything,” Buscak said. “The community there is so, so together and the people are just amazing, the teachers are phenomenal. I mean, you really learn. Yes, it was small, but most Catholic schools are, but you really get that one-on-one time with the teachers.”
Meanwhile, St. John Central Grade School has 65 enrolled students between kindergarten and eighth Grade. Bishop Monforton has requested that the pastor and parish community present a plan for the future of that school.