St. Pat’s to stay open

NEWRY – Despite rumors to the contrary, St. Patrick School will be open for the next school year, officials said.

Rumors about a closing have upset the the school community.

School secretary Dawn McDannell contacted the Mirror to set the record straight.

“We have confirmed that there are rumors circulating that we are closing. … We are not. Not sure where this ugly information is coming from, maybe other schools are talking about it to teachers and parents. … I don’t like this at all.”

Principal Joan Keller also refuted the rumors. But she said the school’s future beyond next year is uncertain.

“We will be open for the 2014-15 school year. I don’t know any more than that,” she said. “All contracts are yearly anyway. Teachers [in the diocese’s parochial schools] are not tenured like in public schools.”

She said St. Patrick’s long-term future may become clearer when leadership is formed for the reorganization of parochial schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Bishop Mark Bartchak announced the reorganization on Jan. 24. Following recommendations of a committee he appointed to evaluate the diocese’s schools, he decided to divide the diocese’s schools into four quadrants with boards to oversee each of them.

From information Keller’s received, no school closings have been discussed by that committee except St. Mary’s, which was announced Feb. 14.

“The committee is studying a better way of educating kids in fewer buildings,” Keller said. “We are hopeful they will still keep our site. It’s probably one of the biggest in the area and has a beautiful campus.”

“We are not 30 miles from Altoona,” she added, as if to debunk a certain perception that St. Patrick would close because of its distance from Altoona. St. Patrick is in the Altoona quadrant, consisting of seven schools. Those schools, except one in Bedford and another in Tyrone, are in the Altoona and Hollidaysburg area.

Diocese spokesman Tony DeGol disagreed with Keller’s assessment that the diocese’s purpose for organizing quadrants is to educate students in fewer buildings.

“It would be unfair to say anything beyond what the bishop has already said. Bishop Mark has decided to divide the schools into quadrants with the expectation that the schools will work together and look for ways to operate more efficiently by sharing resources.”

DeGol said he has not heard rumors about St. Patrick School closing.

“There is no plan to close particular schools,” he said, though he could not say what the future holds.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.