St. Helen’s School in southeast Fresno will close its doors at the end of the school year after 60 years of teaching children in the community.

The school, which has faced declining enrollment, has struggled over the last seven years to cover the cost of employee benefits, incurring about $850,000 in debt to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which has been covering the cost, said Mona Faulkner, superintendent of Catholic schools.

In December 2015, Bishop Armando Ochoa forgave $350,000 of the amount to help the school, but “they are unable to pay their benefits again and so that number has risen to almost $600,000,” Faulkner said. The school also asked for help from St. Helen’s parish, next door to the school. The parish did help for a time, but can’t any longer.

“A school has to be able to make payroll and benefits, that’s the very least it has to do,” Faulkner added. “If the school is unable again to make payroll we would have to close the school immediately. That would be so bad.”

St. Helen’s opened in September 1953 as a mission school serving children in grades one through five. It was operated by the Holy Cross Sisters for a year then by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Kindergarten and sixth grade were added in 1953 and the mission receive parish status in 1955.

Parents are asking the community for donations to help the school stay open. Donations can be made to a PayPal account through the school website.

Full story at The Fresno Bee.