Holy Ghost School facing possible closure at end of school year

April 30 deadline set to increase enrollment

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PROVIDENCE - Holy Ghost School, a fixture in the city’s Federal Hill neighborhood since 1923, faces possible closure in June without additional enrollment and financial support.

Although a request has been made to close the school, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has offered Holy Ghost another chance to succeed with a diocesan subsidy of $100,000 for the 2010-11 academic year if, by April 30, an enrollment of 155 students is achieved, supported by a refundable registration of $50 per student. If the enrollment goal is not met, Holy Ghost School will likely close at the end the current academic year.

As of press time, the school reported an enrollment of 58 students for the following year.

The request to close the diocesan run school explained that enrollment declined from 228 students during the 2004-2005 academic year to 154 during the current school year; the number of professional staff declined from 17 to 11 during the same time period; and income dropped from a surplus of $33,295 earned during

2004-2005 to a deficit of $100,707 reported this year.

The request also stated that the school has incurred a total deficit of $433,841 in the past four years, all of which has been covered by the diocese. The diocese has also provided $275,000 since 2004 for tuition assistance. Since 2004, the diocese has provided more than $608,000 in subsidies to the struggling school.

During the same time period, average tuition increased from $2,350 to $3,700, while cost per pupil rose from $3,134 to $4,126.

According to the Catholic Schools Office, Holy Ghost School is one of eight diocesan schools in Rhode Island which are operated by the Diocese. There are 25 parish schools in the Diocese which are the sole responsibility of parishes.

“The future viability of Holy Ghost School depends on stable enrollment,”emphasized Dr. David Beaudoin, diocesan secretary for Catholic Education and Evangelization. “While the school is most appreciative of the Bishop for his generous offer, it is now up to the leadership and parents of Holy Ghost School to meet the goal of

155 registered students and develop a plan to ensure the future of the school.”

“Next year, if we meet the goal of 155 students and the school remains open, we need to increase our marketing efforts and update the school’s Web site so that people will know about the quality education that is offered at Holy Ghost School,” he said.

Beaudoin said the Catholic Schools Office needs to help the Holy Ghost school board and parent association to become more effective in marketing the school.

According to Carol Wood-Soltys, principal of Holy Ghost School, parents have been notified three times by letter about efforts to keep the school open. A parents committee was recently formed to publicize the registration effort and to telephone those parents who have yet to register their children for next year.

“Forty-three families are very excited about the prospect of the school remaining open. The mission of the church is to minister to the poor,” Wood-Soltys said. “We are actually a mission church. We minister to all faiths. We certainly spread the good news.”

And despite having combined many classrooms, if it reaches the 155 student goal, will continue to spread the good news. She observed that there has been a “huge change” in the ethnic composition of the student body since the school opened 87 years ago.

While Holy Ghost School was established to educate the children of Italian immigrants who settled in the vicinity of Federal Hill, today the school serves many Hispanic and African American students whose parents seek a quality education for their children.

The longtime educator said that numerous individuals outside of the parish, but who have personally benefited from a Catholic education, continue to donate money to help students from struggling families to pay for their education.

Wood-Soltys said that the parents committee will continue to publicize the registration effort.

Photo: Brian Lowney

EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN: Fourth and fifth grade teacher at Holy Ghost School, Nancy Lyons helps Nayelly Torres with her school work. The future of Holy?Ghost School in Providence depends on stable enrollment. The school can remain open if it meets the goal of 155 registered students as well as successfully developing a plan to ensure the school’s future.