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St. Ann Catholic School in Nashville is closing at the end of this school year for kindergarten through eighth grades and will continue to operate the preschool.
Reverend Monsignor John Myler, spokesperson at the Diocese of Belleville, said having the preschool there is a sign of hope that children are provided for and the creative ways that older children will be offered the opportunity to receive Catholic education and formation.
Myler said it’s important to note that the Diocese did not come in and close the school from above and these decisions begin at the school and parish. He said annually, the pastor, pastor council and principal sit down to evaluate the year ahead and after meetings at St. Ann, the pastor along with other leadership recommended to the bishop it was impossible to plan for next year and the school couldn’t remain open. He said that recommendation came to the bishop and the bishop ratified the recommendation.
Myler said St. Ann’s difficulties are similar to the challenges Catholic schools are facing all across the country.
In a letter from Rev. Andrew J. Knopik, pastor and administrator at the school, he said the reason the school is closing is the continual decline in enrollment, which is causing financial drainage that is unsustainable, minimal socialization and difficulty in fielding/inability to field competitive sports teams. He said enrollment numbers and financial figures were shared with the Belleville Diocesan Office of Education. He said the Office of Education under the direction of superintendent Jonathan Birdsong agreed with the concerns which St. Ann Catholic School principal Tony Bodnar expressed to him and his local decision to close St. Ann Catholic School, which was painfully and prayerfully made.
Knopik said Birdsong presented the factual information to Most Reverend Michael McGovern, Bishop of Belleville, and Knopik met with McGovern, chief of staff Mary Fleming and Birdsong on January 10 while on retreat at the King’s House at the Shrine. He said at that meeting the bishop made the final/Diocesan decision to close St. Ann Catholic School.
“Lower enrollment was a major factor. The enrollment is low not because the quality of education is poor, but simply because of the demographics and the number of people living in the area. There are other schools, public, Catholic and private. The number of children is way down from what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago,” Myler said.
Knopik said the decision, local and Diocesan, to close St. Ann Catholic School triggers many consequences, some obvious ones and some yet to be determined. He said he is eternally grateful to past and present guardians of students, past and present faculty and staff (including principals), past and present benefactors, past and present feeder parishes, past and present administrators of St. Ann Catholic Church and Eternal God for the undefinable blessing of past and present students.
Knopik said St. Ann Church will continue to exist to the Glory of God and the building of His Kingdom on Earth. He said he and Bodnar will be in consultation with the school’s faculty, staff and organizations, and teachers will provide students of 2023-2024 an excellent education for which they are widely known until the final bell rings in May.
In a letter, McGovern thanked Knopik, Bodnar, the families, teachers, staff and benefactors for their support of the school. He said the Diocesan Office of Education will assist families that want to continue the education of their children in a Catholic school to learn about the opportunities in the area. McGovern said to keep the people impacted by the closing, especially the children, in your prayers.
Myler said the pastor, Office of Education and bishop will walk with families and assist them in finding alternatives for Catholic education of children and this is heartbreaking for families.
“When a parish loses its school, it doesn’t lose its children. The parish has to develop creative ways to provide for the religious education of those children,” he said.