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Published: Tuesday, 1/21/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Franciscan Academy to close at end of school year

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lourdes University will close its Franciscan Academy, a Catholic elementary school, at the end of this school year, the university announced today.

Parents and staff of the K-8 school, which is just off the Lourdes campus, were notified of the decision today, Lourdes spokesman Heather Hoffman said. The school's board of trustees decided Jan. 15 that closing was the best option, she said.

The school has lost money since the university took over operations in 2009 from the Sisters of St. Francis, Ms. Hoffman said. While the current 172-student enrollment is close to 2009 levels, the school struggled financially a decade ago when it had between 230 and 250 students, she said.

Lourdes spent about $500,000 since 2009 subsidizing the academy, Ms. Hoffman said, and projected to lose about $90,000 this school year.

Lourdes officials were aware of the academy's struggles when the university took over its operations, and had hoped to bring its enrollment back up to levels from a decade ago.

"We tried it for five years," she said. "I think we made a valiant effort."

Closing the academy, which the Franciscan sisters founded in 1973, means layoffs for 23 full-time and 14 part-time staff and a disruption for students. Ms. Hoffman said the university decided to announce the shutdown now so that parents could attend open houses many area schools have scheduled Sunday. Lourdes officials plan to provide parents with informational packets describing schools that may be a "good fit" for their children, Ms. Hoffman said.

Forecasts offered little immediate hope for boosting the academy's stagnant enrollment if it stayed open. A Diocese Metro Toledo Educational Taskforce report predicted enrollment declines in the region's Catholic grade schools, Lourdes said in a news release announcing the closing. Falling enrollment would only worsen the academy's financial straits.

“While the Franciscan Academy has been a great success in providing a first-rate education and has produced some of the highest achieving students in northwest Ohio, we have found that the cost to sustain this level of excellence is not economically feasible at this time,” Lourdes President David Livingston said in the statement.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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