WESTERLY — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence’s Catholic School Office announced today that Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has approved the closure of St. Piux X Regional Academy in Westerly at the end of the school year. This comes after the recommendation of the pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Reverend Michael Najim, the parish trustees and Daniel Ferris, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. This is a result of a rapid decline in enrollment and increased financial deficits.
News of the closure was shared with the school faculty and staff on March 20 and parents were notified by email and written letter on the same day. An informational meeting for parents took place on March 22 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly. The principal and teachers will make every effort to place students at other Catholic schools in the region. Teachers and staff will be provided priority assistance in securing positions at other Catholic schools in the state.
There are currently 118 students enrolled in the school. A sharp, projected decline in student enrollment as a result of a large graduating eighth grade class this year would increase an already mounting deficit at the school.
“I take this opportunity to offer my sincere admiration and appreciation to Father Najim and his predecessor, Father Ray Suriani, as well as the administrators, teachers, staff, volunteers, parents and students who have done their very best to maintain Catholic education in the Westerly area for many years,” said Bishop Tobin. “The closing of the school certainly is not the result of a lack of commitment or desire, but rather, a reflection of the changing demographics that are affecting many schools, public and private, in our region and in many parts of our country.”
Superintendent Ferris said, “St. Pius X Regional Academy has been a model of personalized learning, faith formation and character development. Over the years, the graduates have proved highly successful in high school and college. This is a difficult loss for the Diocese. It is a difficult loss for the parishes that support the school and it is a loss for the families that have entrusted their children to the school and seen them flourish and grow in body, mind and spirit.”
The school building that St. Pius X occupies opened in 1870 as the Westerly High School and remained so until the high school was relocated in 1903. From 1903 to 1955, the Elm Street Grammar School was in residence. In 1955, under the auspices of St. Pius X Parish, its pastor, the late William Farrell, and then Bishop of Providence, the late Russell J. McVinney, purchased the property and renovations began on the future St. Pius X Elementary School. It was staffed by the Religious Teachers Filippini. The formal opening of the school took place in September, 1963. St. Pius X Regional Academy educated students from pre-k though grade 8.