After six decades of operation, Holy Cross Academy in West Sacramento stunned parishioners this weekend by announcing it plans to close its doors at the end of the school year due to budget problems.
The superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sacramento, Lincoln Snyder, initially announced the move in a letter to families dated Friday.
On Sunday, the announcement also came during Holy Cross church services. By Monday, parishioners were searching for alternatives.
“People cried at church when they heard,” said Norma Alcala, who attended Holy Cross Academy in the late 1960s, followed years later by several children and a grandchild.
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“It bothers me that the diocese could do this,” she said, “especially since many other parishes have lots of money. They could adopt our children.”
Alcala, a trustee for the Washington Unified School District, said the academy serves a large number of Latino children and many students receive financial aid to help cover their tuition.
“A lot of us are really heartbroken,” she said.
By Monday afternoon, parents had begun a campaign on a Holy Cross Facebook page to raise about $15,000 “to show the Diocese people care about HCA and want to save the school.”
More than 200 people filled the school’s auditorium Monday night as Snyder tried to explain the Diocese decision. The gathering started calmly but turned combative at times as parents voiced their anger. They questioned why they hadn’t been told the school was in jeopardy and pleaded for another year to fix its fiscal problems.
“They did not go through options,” said parent Crystal Babowal. She said parents and teachers want to find creative ways to keep the school open including boosting fund-raising and tuition.
Parent Brian Briggs said Snyder showed up at the meeting without an open mind.
“It became pretty clear that the diocese had already made their decision. I think the decision was made before we knew there was a problem,” Briggs said. He and others said they want to see the school’s financial records.
“I would like some transparency,” Briggs said.
Snyder said in an interview Monday that the school has operated at a shortfall since about 2010 and requires ongoing subsidies. The diocese subsidies so far have reached $1.2 million but could grow to $1.5 million by the time the academic year ends May 31, he said.
The school, at 800 Todhunter Ave., serves 180 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It opened in 1957 as Holy Cross School, serving 59 students in first through fourth grades, according to its website.
“Everyone at Holy Cross Academy – families, staff and students – have worked incredibly hard to keep the schools open,” Snyder wrote in his letter. “Sometimes that’s just not enough and, sadly, this is one of those times.”
The diocese has 40 schools in at least 10 Northern California counties with a combined 13,500 enrollment, Snyder said. The academy, owned by Holy Cross Parish, also faces ongoing maintenance needs, Snyder said.
He said that any family that wants to keep students enrolled in a Catholic school will be guaranteed placement at another school in the diocese. Any students eligible for financial aid will continue to receive the aid during the next academic year at the chosen school. He said there are a dozen other schools within a 10-mile radius of Holy Cross Academy.
The diocese is offering the academy’s sixth- and seventh-grade classes relocation in fall 2017 to Our Lady of Grace School in West Sacramento to allow students who have been together the longest to continue those relationships. In addition, all diocesan elementary schools will waive registration fees next fall for students transferring from the academy, Snyder said.
It’s been several years since a school in the diocese was closed. St. Theresa at South Lake Tahoe shut down in 2013 because of financial issues, Snyder said. He said he does not anticipate any further school closures.
As stewards of funds, he said, “it is time to pursue other alternatives for investing in the education of Catholic children and families.”