There was talk around town and on social media, and a proposed letter-writing campaign, and now, a final decision has been made. Vermilion St. Mary School, a 65-year institution in the community, will close. In a letter to school families dated May 31, Father Paul Schreiner of St. Mary’s said after reviewing the number of student registrations the school received for next year, he, with the support of the Parish Finance Council, asked for permission from Diocese of Toledo Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, to close the school for kindergarten through 6th grade. Schreiner said the Diocese of Toledo, of which St. Mary’s is a part, has acknowledged that it will support this decision due to the current enrollment of 28 students in grades K-4 for next year when 55 are required. He said the decision does not affect the St. Mary Preschool program.
Schreiner issued the following statement: “After years of declining enrollment, Saint Mary Catholic Parish has regretfully decided to close Saint Mary School, which has operated as a ministry of the parish since its founding in 1957, for grades kindergarten through sixth grade. This decision was made in consultation with the Diocese of Toledo, which has communicated its support of this decision. This decision does not affect St. Mary’s established and well-respected preschool program, which will continue to operate in the coming years.”
Fr. Schreiner said, “For the last several years, St. Mary School has been afflicted with dropping enrollment and rising operation costs. In 2002, the school had 185 enrolled students. By early 2020, just 90 students were enrolled in the school before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect. This past school year, St. Mary’s enrollment had dropped to 69 students.”
“At the same time, costs to operate the school have exceeded what the parish can afford to provide for. This current year, the parish will spend $302,000 to support the school. This is $127,000 over the parish’s budgeted amount for the school. The parish, which has suffered deep financial losses due to a drop in financial giving and attendance during the pandemic, made the difficult decision to close the school out of necessity in order to be a proper steward of its resources.”
Schreiner said St. Mary Parish will continue to assist parish families in providing their children with a Catholic education. The parish will create a scholarship fund to assist families who are active parishioners at St. Mary Parish to defray the costs of sending their children to other local Catholic schools. The parish will also provide some financial support to those Catholic schools educating parish youth.
In answer to questions about the existing staff at the school, Schreiner said, “Approximately 15 of our school staff positions will be affected by the decision to close the school. The teachers and staff have been offered opportunities to reach out to Mr. Matt Daniels, the Senior Director of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Toledo, or to work with our principal, Mr. George Mitchell to assist and find new positions for the following school year.”
“It is deeply saddening to all of us that our K-6 school can no longer continue to operate,” said Fr. Schreiner. “In the 65 years since its establishment, St. Mary School has provided a faith-filled education for our students and their families. It is impossible to describe the impact that the many years of dedication, perseverance, and support from parishioners, principals, teachers, families, and members of the Vermilion community have had on our students. Thank you to all who have contributed in helping our students grow in the values of the Gospel and in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”