Fighting to keep school alive

May 4, 2008 6:48:06 PM PDT
Parents and students turn to other Catholics as they fight to keep their school -- Mount Carmel -- open. The archdiocese told them last week the school will be shut down at the end of the school year -- due to low enrollment. People were handing out flyers at the new Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, hoping to get support for the school. But it may not help. Dozens of students and parents drove to the co-cathedral Sunday morning for a rally. With less than 30 days before their school is set to close for good they're working overtime, trying to do anything they can to keep it open.

Mt. Carmel students and parents recited the rosary outside the co-cathedral to show that while they may not understand why their school is being taken away, they still have faith it will all work out.

Gabriela Lopes-Rogina, 11th grader, said, "I'm here to pray that whoever's in charge of our school being lost will change their heart and hopefully will let us finish out our years at Mt. Carmel."

They held signs and passed out flyers to parishioners in hopes of drumming up as much support as possible. The archdiocese says declining enrollment and financial concerns have forced them to close the school after more than 50 years.

Coach Lacy Wolf said, "The community is not about a building. We are going to keep Mt. Carmel alive, whether it be there or elsewhere."

Parents say they've already secured a building, if it comes to that, and they plan to ask HISD to take them on as a charter school. Though they would like to stay in where they are and maybe operate as a privately funded Catholic school if the archdiocese will allow them.

In the meantime, with all this uncertainty, students are scrambling to figure out what to do next.

"It's really confusing and frustrating because I've worked so hard to get where I am," Gabriela said. "It's my spot and it feels like its being taken away from me."

Joseph Garan, 11th grader, said, "My last year of high school - the year that's supposed to be the most meaningful, all the memories - we lose it."

The archdiocese tells Eyewitness News that rally or not, the school will still close at the end of the year. A spokeswoman says they have extended the deadline to apply for other Catholic schools to May 9 to accommodate Mt. Carmel students. She also says that they are aware the other schools are more expensive, but no student will be turned away based on a lack of finances alone.

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