By: Lauren Rohrig
An April deadline for raising $500,000 has come and gone, but parents, students, and teachers are holding out hope they will raise the money needed to keep Our Lady of Lourdes grammar school in Jamaica Plain open next year. The beloved school, which is the last private Catholic school in Jamaica Plain, boasts a large percent of Hispanic and black students in the 187, kindergarten through eighth grade, student body.
The potential closing of the school came as a shock to parents. They were told during a meeting with school and church officials, that due to a budget deficit of $250,000 from the 2008-2009 fiscal year and the expected $250,000 to keep the school open next year, the Our Lady of Lourdes parish is no longer able to afford the school. Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hennessey made what he described as “a good-faith offer” to parents who want to save the school, at the January meeting. Hennessey asked them to “Establish a committee to investigate the possibility of raising $500,000 by this April that would allow the school to pay all its bills for this year as well as cover anticipated expenses for next year.”
President of the “Home and School Board,” and mother of a first grader at the school Monique Thorne explained parents felt, “anger, hurt, and pain, but mostly anger.” There was no inclination from school officials that there was a problem with money, “parents were not aware,” Thorne went on to say.
In early February, after meeting with church and school officials, ten parents got together and formed Save Our Lady of Lourdes (Save OLOL). The group organized a successful benefit concert put on in March, raffled off Bruins Hockey tickets for $1,791, and accepted numerous donations adding up to about $60,000. Save OLOL set up a website, SaveOLOL.org, to keep parents apprise of their fundraising efforts, and to rally for support from the Jamaica Plain community. Doyle’s Café, the Galway House, and the Drinking Fountain are just a few of the local businesses supporting the efforts of Save OLOL.
Thorne, also a member of Save OLOL, explained that as of now, they are “not able to release that info [the total amount raise] at this time, but it is substantial.” The organization is still going strong and will continue to raise money and accept donations until church officials ask for a final count. The outcome, decided by Archdiocese of Boston church officials, will be announced to anxious parents in two weeks during a meeting at the end of the school year.
Although Monique Thorne is “staying positive” about reaching the goal, she has enrolled her daughter into another private Catholic school in the Boston area as well as at Our Lady of Lourdes. Most parents have done the same, just in case the goal is not met and the school closes.
Along with the displacement of 187 students, 19 teachers will be without work next year if Our Lady of Lourdes closes, adding to the thousands of teachers already out of work due to the budget cuts to the Boston Public school system. Thorne and other parents are concerned for the teacher’s future. “I adore the teachers here,” Thorne said “the archdiocese says they will help place the teachers in other catholic schools but honestly – there is no place for them to go, which concerns us.”
The closing of private Catholic institutions is nothing new to Jamaica Plain’s residents. In 2005, parents were given the opportunity to raise $350,000 in order to save St. Andrews the Apostle School. This goal was never met, and the school closed, dispersing its students to other Catholic institutions in and around the Boston area.