The archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools and Father Jimmy Drennan, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church, announced July 17 that St. Margaret Mary School would permanently close its doors and not re-open for the 2017-2018 school year. A meeting with parents and staff was held at the school on July 19, at 7 p.m., to discuss plans moving forward for the students and personnel there.
Currently, only 53 students were registered for the fall semester. Financial projections for the school, even with an optimistic enrollment total of 117 students, indicated that St. Margaret Mary would still operate at a very significant financial deficit for the upcoming year.
Earlier in the spring, it was announced that St. Margaret Mary would cease to operate its junior high (grades six, seven, and eight) due to low enrollment in those three grades specifically, and students were encouraged to continue their studies at the new St. Gerard Regional Catholic Middle School, located nearby on the campus of St. Gerard Catholic High School. Unfortunately, summer enrollment figures indicated low numbers as well in the pre-school grades, with no students enrolled in the pre-K 3 program.
St. Margaret Mary School, located at 1202 Fair Avenue, was dedicated on Oct. 21, 1956, by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey. The school, under the direction of the Felician Sisters, opened with an enrollment of 746 pupils and peaked with 1,038 students in 1960.
Pressure on the school and church was eased the following year when the southeast area of the parish was used to form Holy Name Parish in June 1961.
Enrollment for the school was steady for many years. However, gradually, over time, St. Margaret Mary struggled with declining enrollment. Combined with that challenge, economic uncertainties, and the changing demographics of the area, it became impossible for the pastor, principal, staff, and parish community to overcome these difficulties, despite their significant efforts to redirect resources to support the school.
Marti West, superintendent of Catholic Schools, and her staff will provide resources to assist St. Margaret Mary families to become acquainted with other Catholic schools. A school fair to provide more information on Catholic school options for students and parents was held in the archdiocesan Pastoral Center at 2718 West Woodlawn on July 26, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., with dozens of family attending.
In addition, registration fees paid by enrollees will be reimbursed, uniform coupons will be distributed, and a Hope for the Future tuition assistance grant for each student currently enrolled at St. Margaret Mary will be offered to help with their transition to a new Catholic school. Also, the Catholic Schools Department will work with teachers and staff from St. Margaret Mary to give personnel information concerning employment opportunities at other facilities in the Catholic School system.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, said it is his hope and prayer that all the students will be able to transfer to one of the other Catholic schools in the area and that as many teachers and administrators as possible will be able to continue working in Catholic education. The archbishop added, “I particularly want to thank Father Jimmy Drennan for all of his efforts on behalf of the students at St. Margaret Mary School. I know the decision to close the school was not an easy one to make, but we carry on in faith.”
Archbishop Gustavo also praised the legacy of St. Margaret Mary School, saying that thousands of students benefitted academically and spiritually due to the vital efforts of the many pastors, priests, Felician Sisters, administrators, teachers, and parents who contributed to the operation of the school through the decades.
Superintendent West stated, “Making the decision to close the school has been difficult and painful. St. Margaret Mary has been an important part of this community since 1956, educating and forming many of today’s community leaders. The loyalty of the families and staff that have tirelessly supported the school is amazing and admirable.”
She continued, “It is of extreme importance that we are a responsible steward of our archdiocesan resources, and our responsibility to ensure that we are providing the very best environment in spiritual, academic and whole-child formation. We stand committed to helping these loyal, dedicated families to find a new school home that will provide the levels of excellence they deserve. We have committed to providing counseling and additional resources to our St. Margaret Mary community during this time of transition.”
There are 39 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of San Antonio with a total enrollment serving more than 12,000 students.