Archdiocese decides fate of schools, St. John the Evangelist to close


Anthony DiMattia, Centurion Staff

In a surprising turn of events, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has awarded Holy Trinity elementary school in Morrisville its appeal to stay open while also deciding it must close St. John the Evangelist elementary school in Yardley in the process.

The decision came as a shock to both parishes, as Holy Trinity was originally one of the six Bucks County Catholic schools recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission to close or merge with other area schools.

Now without the ability to appeal, St. John’s will be the only Bucks County Catholic elementary school forced to close according to the Philadelphia Archdiocese website.

“Excitement, happiness, relief for families and teachers, as well as concern for St. John’s,” said Holy Trinity Principle Elaine McDowell sympathetically after first hearing of the fate of both schools. The news first trickled down from parents and media sources before McDowell received official word from the archdiocese.

McDowell emphasized Holy Trinity was grateful for the second chance, as the school already prepared themselves for their eventual merger with St. John’s. “This was not just a win for Holy Trinity, but a win for all of Morrisville,” said McDowell, “the Borough of Morrisville has no alternate to public education.”

Unfortunately the mood at St. John’s elementary was not as optimistic about their future. “We were very, very surprised,” said St. John’s Principle Sheree Montgomery, who expected Holy Trinity to be regionalized and not her school. When asked whether the decision by the archdiocese was warranted Montgomery stated that she was not at liberty to comment.

“Right now there is no clarity as to what, if anything, we are able to present at this time,” said Montgomery when asked what the schools next move might be. “We have hope, as we have a strong parent community here, to see what we can work out,” said Montgomery.

According to Montgomery, the current plan now calls for St. Ignatius in Yardley, St. Andrews in Newtown as well as Holy Trinity to help accommodate the 197 students affected by the closing. The staff at St. John’s is now left with the responsibility of informing parents of what their options will be for their children come next fall.

“It’s important to know will we always put the children first, whatever works out we hopes it’s in the best interest of the children,” Montgomery poignantly stated.

Emphasizing the affect the closure would have on the community, McDowell stated Holy Trinity would welcome students from the St. John’s parish with open arms. “I think every parent should be able to choose their education for their children,” said McDowell.

McDowell would go on to list the many attributes that helped sway the archdiocese, highlighting the schools affordability, sustainability, and accessibility as a no busing district. Also, Holy Trinity provides many activities other schools cannot, such as field trips, public speakers, and numerous afterschool activities thanks to their partnership with the 21st Century Learning Center according to McDowell.

“The relief was immense,” recalled Brenda Kipp of Morrisville, after learning her sixth grade daughter would continue classes at Holy Trinity. “The prospect of changing schools was a little frightening for her and me. I’m glad she won’t have to go through it; losing her friends, her teachers, her principal, and her pastor is too much change at one time for a little girl,” said Kipp.

“I think Morrisville would lose its greatest asset,” Kipp stated, sharing in McDowell’s sentiment of community spirit. “The kids connect in school, those relationships spill over into church, and suddenly you have these families connecting on more than one level. The children pull everyone together and build the community,” said Kipp.

Hopefully that spirit grows stronger with Holy Trinity hosting an open house for students from outside their parish on Sunday March 4, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., as well as Thursday March 8, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. With the closing of St. John’s McDowell expects a large turnout.

“All parties will work together in the end. We always want to work for the good of God, problem solving and not finding blame,” said Montgomery, who summed up the painful process as best as possible.