Many parents of the 172 students at the Franciscan Academy in Sylvania have band together to find new schools for their children.
The Catholic academy, at 5335 Silica Dr., is run by Lourdes University with a preschool and K-8 grades, but is slated to close at the end of this school year. The shutdown was announced in January, when Lourdes said it could not keep financially supporting keeping the school open.
Matt and Lisa Logan of Toledo looked at five area private schools before deciding to send their two children to All Saints Catholic School in Rossford. Their children, Clare, 9, and Madeline, 7, now attend the academy. Mr. Logan said the search for a new school was an “arduous task.”
“The schools we visited had very close characteristics to the Franciscan Academy, including an intimate setting,” and an excellent academic reputation, he said.
Parents of the students have tried to help each other by using a Facebook page, FALU Refugees, and having meetings to talk about other prospective schools. The families are spread around the Toledo area, so the children will migrate to a variety of schools.
News of the shutdown shocked parents, and led some to question Lourdes motives, wondering if the university had other plans for the building. The building is owned by the Sisters of St. Francis,but has been managed and operated by the university since 2009. Lourdes spokesman Heather Hoffman said the university has spent about $500,000 since 2009 subsidizing the academy. It projected the school to lose about $90,000 this school year.
Mr. Logan said parents urged the Sisters to consider reversing the decision to close the school that has been there since 1973. A response letter from the congregational minister for the religious order, Sister Mary Jon Wagner, said the sustainability of the academy is "difficult" and said the building's future use would “support the mission to be Catholic and Franciscan.”
For Sylvania parent Amy Sarantou, she said her family put into practice the motto “ improvise, overcome, and adapt” in accepting the unwanted change of schools.
“The quicker you accept it and adapt to it and move on, it will make you stronger in the end," she said.
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Her family decided that her son Thanos, 7, will attend St. Joseph School in Sylvania next year. Mrs. Sarantou knows of two other Franciscan students that will join Thanos’ third grade class.
She said the school’s larger size compared to academy’s was a factor at first. However, she changed her mind after visiting during a special open house.
“I didn’t feel that they were recruiting us. I felt like it was just welcoming,” she said. “Yes, it’s bigger, but I hope to get to know and bond with parents in Thanos’ class.”
She was also impressed with the student and teacher interaction. She noted his teacher knelt down to him “making him feel comfortable” when she answered Thanos’ questions about what he would learn next year if he decided to attend the school, she said.
Deborah Ayres Budd of Sylvania said she does not know where her daughter Avalon, 8, will attend fourth grade. She is on a waiting list for Lial Catholic School in Whitehouse. She said other parents are also waiting for confirmation that their children were accepted to the school.
“If she does not get into Lial we don’t have a second choice," she said. "All the schools we looked at, albeit good schools, not any school really totally captured what I had at the Franciscan Academy.”
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.