HOUMA, La. (AP) - A Catholic elementary school that has operated for more than 50 years is closing in south Louisiana.
Catholic diocese officials said Maria Immacolata Elementary in Houma will close at the end of the current school year.
The school has just over 150 students. The Courier reports that officials had planned to close the school after the 2018-19 school year. But last-minute pleas from parents persuaded Houma-Thibodaux Bishop Shelton Fabre to keep it open for another year in an effort to improve its finances.
In a news release this week, the diocese says student enrollment and the school's economic vitality have fallen to a level that is no longer sustainable.
"While we sincerely regret that these actions are necessary, we remain dedicated to the mission of Catholic education in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux," Houma-Thibodaux Catholic schools Superintendent Suzanne Delaune Troxclair said. "We recognize this is difficult news to hear, but we are blessed to have other strong Catholic schools nearby."
Troxclair said the diocese is working to help Maria Immacolata families enroll in another local Catholic school next year.
In line to pick up her son and daughter Tuesday, Brittney Richardson said she is sad to see the school close, calling it a great environment with compassionate teachers.
"It's heartbreaking," she said.
Her children had attended for the past five years. While her daughter was in her final year, she said her son still had one year to go.
In an email to parents, principal Prissy Davis said the school wasn't able to bounce back after discussion about the closure early this year.
"We lost many families and have not been able to get enrollment back up," she wrote.
The $100,000 raised in three months by the school would not cover the cost of building improvements requested by the diocese, Davis said in the letter. The improvements include a new roof, new classroom floors and sandblasting and painting the building.
The costs, along with the school's budget deficit and lost tuition, would put the church in debt by more than $600,000.
"This decision hurts and will be a struggle for many of us. It will be a rough day on Monday when we return," Davis stated. "My job is to ensure that the next six months are the best they can be."