From the St. Camillus Parish Bulletin:
Dear school parents and parishioners,
We are writing to share exciting information about the future of Catholic education at St. Camillus. This is just a summary of a detailed report to parents made on Jan. 12.
This summer, St. Camillus School, in partnership with our neighbors at St. Mark's School in Hyattsville, will join our communities and resources to create a whole new entity, Saint Francis International School, to be located here at St. Camillus.
By forming a new school in partnership with St. Mark we will be able to continue the five-decade legacy of Catholic education that both communities have, and we will be able to transform our educational ministry in ways that neither of us could have done alone.
Here's how we reached this point.
We are both incredibly proud of the ministry that St. Camillus School has performed over the last 55 years. We truly believe in the power of Catholic education to change lives and that Catholic education is a vital part of our church’s mission. St. Camillus School was founded in 1954 to serve a burgeoning population, with record enrollments through the 1960’s. But since the 1970’s our area and our parish have gone through repeated demographic shifts. Over the years our school has had to adapt its mission and ministry to meet the challenge of providing Catholic education to the community. For instance we reduced the number of grades several times, we have added numerous programs, and 25 years ago we created an early childhood program.
Last fall, 14 parish schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, seven in Maryland, began a process of consulting with their communities because they face significant challenges to continued operation. These include some of our closest neighbors (St. Mark, St. Michael, St. Jerome, St. Hugh, St. Catherine Labouré, and St. Jude). These schools have had declining enrollment and face substantial budget deficits for which the parishes are responsible. With the economic recession many parishes are finding it difficult to subsidize their schools and the Archdiocese of Washington is unable to do so either.
Upon learning this we asked ourselves, “What does this mean for St. Camillus?” and started talking to some neighboring pastors. We quickly realized that St. Mark’s in particular is a school and parish very similar to ours. We also found the pastor and principal were quite willing and open to further discussions about how to improve Catholic education in both the communities of St. Mark's and St. Camillus.
Over the last few months we've met with experts in Catholic education from around the country, with the pastor and principal of St. Mark and with the staff of the archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office. As talks progressed and ideas came together we met with the parish councils, the finance councils, the school advisory boards and faculties of both St. Mark and St. Camillus. In December, we jointly presented the archdiocese with a full-blown proposal. The archdiocese has been encouraging and we are awaiting final approval of the plan that all of this work has produced.
Saint Francis International will begin operating in June 2010, with our Summer @ Saint Francis program, which will take place at the current St. Mark School building. In September, 2010, Saint Francis International School will open for the 2010-2011 school year here at St. Camillus. Our new school will continue to serve children age two through grade eight.
The new school will have a significantly higher enrollment than we do now, so you will see many upgrades to the school building over the next eight months. In March the current teachers from St. Camillus and St. Mark will have the opportunity to apply for positions in the new school. Over the course of the next eight months significant work will be done to create all of the elements to make Saint Francis International School the best Catholic school in our region.
We anticipate that Archbishop Donald Wuerl will quickly grant us permission to proceed, and we will begin pre-registration of current St. Camillus and St. Mark students for the 2010-2011 school year on Jan. 22. Four open houses are scheduled: Jan. 25 and 31 and Feb. 4 and 12. More information will be available soon at our school website: www.stcamillusschool.net.
We understand that this news may cause a bit of sadness or worry for some people. We urge you to place your trust in the Lord, as we have done with the belief that God’s hand is at work in this.
As we move forward, we invite you and all members of our community to get involved in the process of founding Saint Francis International School. There is much work to be done. If you are interested in helping please contact us.