The Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, approved sweeping changes to elementary schools within the diocese.
Following the recommendations of a year-old committee of 13 diocese members, Bartchak agreed to reorganize the diocese's 20 Catholic elementary schools into four geographical quadrants, each with a board of directors to govern the schools within its boundaries.
Bartchak has scheduled meetings with the pastors of parishes directly involved with the operation of the elementary schools to inform them of the new model, a Friday press release stated.
"Each region has its own set of challenges. By working together collaboratively, it will make them stronger," diocese Spokesman Tony DeGol said.
Sharing resources is a key component of that collaboration among schools, DeGol said.
"Our Catholic schools are doing really well," he said. "The bishop's goal for the schools is to continue to be strong in the future."
There are 2,950 students registered at Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese this 2013-14 academic year, a slight jump from 2012-13. Altoona-Johnstown had the highest increase in enrollment among all dioceses in Pennsylvania.
Collaboration between the Catholic elementary schools and the four Catholic high schools is a key reason behind the creation of the new quadrants, the press release states. Each elementary school quadrant has a Catholic high school in its region.
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School officials were not available to comment Friday on what collaboration might take shape.
Bartchak said in the release that the diocese is at an important juncture.
"The time has come to make sure we position our elementary schools for a successful future," he said.
"I continue to ask for everyone's prayerful support as we work to make Catholic schools an available, accessible and affordable option for families."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.