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Archdiocese of Washington to close or merge four Catholic schools

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010; B03

Two Washington area Catholic schools will close at the end of the school year, two will merge and another is examining its options, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington said Friday.

The changes come at a tough time for area Catholic schools, which have been suffering from declining enrollment because of the economy and, in the District, the winding-down of the federal voucher program that gives low-income families up to $7,500 to attend private schools.

"We've had some tough years," said Susan Gibbs, an archdiocese spokeswoman. But she said that many officials of the 14 schools that met this fall to discuss their futures emerged with renewed community support.

Holy Redeemer, a 149-student school in Northwest Washington, and 129-student St. Hugh School in Greenbelt will close. St. Mark School in Hyattsville and St. Camillus School in Silver Spring plan to merge and form a school with an internationally focused curriculum called Saint Francis International.

The fifth school, St. Michael the Archangel in Silver Spring, is still determining its future, Gibbs said. All five schools are prekindergarten through 8th grade. The other schools in the archdiocese plan to remain open next year, she said.

The archdiocese operates 96 schools in the District and Maryland and serves 28,629 students, down 2.4 percent from last year, when it closed two schools in Southern Maryland.

Two years ago, it gave up control of seven District schools and converted them to public charter schools.

The Diocese of Arlington, which runs schools in Northern Virginia, has no plans to close schools next school year, said Joelle Santolla, a spokeswoman.

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