The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has proposed merging four inner city high schools for girls into one, a move that church officials say is necessary to keep costs at a manageable level..
If the proposal is adopted the schools scheduled to close are St. Cecilia's Academy, 601 East Capitol St. Immaculate Conception Academy 24th and K streets NW and St. Patrick's Academy, 924 G St. NW. Girls from these three schools would attend a renovated and expanded St. Anthony's School at 1001 Lawrence St. NE. currently the archdiocese's only coed high school in the city. The boys now at St. Anthony's would be transferred to another school.
The archdiocesan school board will hold an open hearing next month to test community reaction to the proposal.
Enrollment at all four schools is predominantly black-at St. Cecilia's the enrollment is about 95 percent black-and the proposal has generated some anxiety among black Catholics.
Jacqueline Wilson, head of the archdiocesan Black Secretariat, said her agency "is studying it very carefully."
Within the past five years, the archdiocese has closed or consolidated three schools that served large numbers of black youngsters: Sacred Heart in 1973, Holy Trinity in 1974. and in 1975 the Academy of Our Lady was consolidated with St. Cecilia's.
"When there is a merger or a consolidation, the blacks lose out," said Robert L. Robinson. Black Secretarial member from the Northeast Vicariate where two of the affected schools are located.
The apprehension of black Catholics, who make up about 20 percent of Catholic Church membership in the Washington archdiocese, goes back nearly two decades to the flight of Whites from the District to escape the effects of public school desegregation, Wilson expained.
Archdiocesan school Superintendant Leonard DeFiore told parents groups at each of the four schools last Sunday that the consolidation program was necessary in order to keep down costs, and consequently tuition, in the years ahead.
"We would have a school for 850 girls that would serve, hopefully, to the end of the century, and hopefully beyond that," he said. Msgr. Edward E. Spiers, a consultant to the board, added that the proposal reflects the board's attempt to "try to hold down the cost of tuition so that at most, it will just go up with (the rate of inflation."
Tuition at the four schools currently ranges from a low of $700 at immaculate Conception to a high of $950 at St. Anthony's. with the other two charging just more than $800. Diocesan and parish subsidies directly to the school account largely for differences in costs. DiForce said that all four schools are "heavily subsidized."
The proposal, if adopted, involves the renovation and construction of new wings at St. Anthony's, so that the consolidation could not take place until September, 1981, at the earliest, DeForce said.
DeFiore said the neccessary construction at St. Anthony's would be financed by profits from the sale of the schools slated to be closed, each of which is located in an area of booming real estate values.
Parents attending the meetings Sunday at each of the schools were not told in advance about the proposal, but were summoned only to hear "a proposal vital to Catholic girls in the archdiocese."
Wilson and others were critical of the failure to involve parents and black catholics particularly in the planning stages of the proposal.
In response to questions, DeFiore insisted that all the special features of the four smaller schools would be retained in the larger consolidated schools. But some parents expressed concern that the values of the present small schools would be lost in the larger institution.
"I sent my daughter to St. Cecilia's because she needs to be pushed," one father said of the school, which is noted for coaxing academic achievement effort from girls who may have had problems elsewhere.
If the proposal is adopted, it will leave the archdiocese with the only two high schools for girls and two for boys in the city.