Stella Maris parents must find a new school for their children and will have the opportunity to sign up for two designated schools Tuesday.
“I’m sad. I cried,” Stella Maris seventh-grader Jason Burris, of Sixth and Johnston streets, said following last Thursday’s dismissal.
Burris, 13, and his classmates were slated to graduate from Stella Maris next year. Instead, that final year has come early as they scurry to find a new school.
“I don’t know yet,” classmate Wence Vargas, 13, of Eighth and Bigler streets, said of which school he will attend.
“I’m really sad,” he added. “It really affected me. It really shocked me. I’m going to miss the teachers.”
While Vargas was one of the 69 registrants at the school who was scheduled to receive a refund since the announcement, some did not even bother to sign up, including seventh-grader Gary Carlile, 12, of Ninth and Johnston streets, whose mother registered him at Holy Spirit prior to the official closing of Stella Maris.
A mother of a third grader, who chose not to give her name, picked Holy Spirit, 1845 Hartranft St., for her daughter too.
“I registered at Holy Spirit, who has a lot more to offer than this school and the priest gets along with all the kids,” the resident of 11th Street and Oregon Avenue said.
However, Stella Maris will only provide a tuition subsidy to two of the neighborhood schools.
“Children who attend either Epiphany [of Our Lord, 1248 Jackson St.,] or St. Monica [1720 Ritner St.] will have a portion of their tuition paid through the generosity of their fellow parishioners at Stella Maris,” Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said via e-mail. “The amount will help to bridge the gap between what the parent would be expected to pay and what it costs the receiving school to educate the child.”
However, the lack of a subsidy does not bother the third-grade mother, as Holy Spirit is about $30 cheaper a month already and provides busing, she said.
While the students are able to register at any school they wish with permission from Pastor Peter J. DiMaria, the two schools were chosen to prevent separating the current Stella Maris students as much as possible, Farrell said.
“It is to continue the sense of community for the parish, keeping the children together at fewer schools; for example, so that they come together for the Sacraments,” she said. “Often, it is only one school that is designated.”
Parents who have not yet registered their children will be able to do so Tuesday night at Stella Maris where parents will be able to sign up for one of the two designated schools, she added.
Although some parents and parishioners have pointed their fingers at DiMaria for the closure, he did propose that Stella Maris become the site of a regional school, Farrell said.
“The other parishes in the area were not ready to move to that model,” she said. “In a letter to parents, Father DiMaria said that he has requested and been assured that there will be no consideration for alternative use of the school buildings and property at this time. Stella Maris will continue to be part of the regional planning to ensure quality Catholic education in South Philadelphia.”
A meeting was planned for Feb. 18 to discuss options and the — at that time — possible closure, but it was soon cancelled due to a death in the vicar’s family. The archdiocese did not provide a reason for it not being rescheduled as of press time.
The third grade mother said, DiMaria chased a lot of parishioners out as fundraising options were declined and tuition was raised.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia officially announced Friday that Stella Maris School, 814 Bigler St., would close at the end of the school year due to low enrollment.
Last week, parents at two local Catholic schools feared the bases of their children’s education would shut their doors for good in June, but both — Holy Spirit and Stella Maris — have refused to go down without a fight from their supporters.
To the Editor: I am a longtime parishioner of Stella Maris, as well as an alumni of the school. I am angry and heartbroken at the closing of our school, however, today I have reached my limit.
A sign displaying “Thanks for the Memories” adorned the school yard at 814 Bigler St., as gold and blue balloons seemed to sway in time with the children’s voices as they sang the school song.
“As emotional as everything is, you need to avoid coming at it from an emotional stance,” Patricia Cody said after Friday’s dismissal of 293 pupils from Epiphany of Our Lord, 1248 Jackson St.
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