St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary School to close

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Declining enrollment led to a merger a few years ago and now the only Catholic school in Austintown is closing.

Parents at St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary School are outraged.

“I felt like I got stabbed in the back,” said Mike Slanina.

He and his wife, Chrissy, have a daughter, Ami, that goes to the school.

“The number of children enrolled at St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary continues to decline,” Chrissy Slanina said.

The school will close at the end of the current school year, according to a letter sent home to parents on Friday.

“If the school is going to close, the school is going to close. There is nothing I can say or do about that. But the way they went about it, the letter home with everyone’s child. It’s just wrong. Just plain wrong,” Mike Slanina said.

Tara Patris agreed.

“I think it was totally inappropriate,” Patris said.

Tara Patris said not only was it inappropriate, but it’s difficult to explain to a son with a learning disability. He opened the letter before he got home.

“I feel like I am going to cry when it closes,” said her son, Konnor Patris.

We reached out to officials from the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown and Lumen Christi Schools, of which St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary was a part. Neither would talk on camera, but said they will release an official statement on Monday.

The letter stated that enrollment for the 2014-15 school year stood at less than 100 students and that parents who enroll their children at other Lumen Christi schools will receive a scholarship of $500 per student up to $1,000 per family.

“Lumen Christi Catholic Schools and the Diocese of Youngstown remain committed to the future of Catholic education,” the letter said. “We will continue to work within our schools to increase Catholic identity, enhance academic success, increase enrollment and decrease costs.”

Parents said they are not sure the school worked hard enough to keep the school open.

“They never did anything to help the enrollment. They promised it would go up in years and it didn’t. I don’t know if they did enough to try,” Tara Patris said.

Parents said with less than three weeks until the end of the school year, they are scrambling to find a new school for their children next fall.

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