The Diocese of San Diego announced the closure of St. Michael Academy at the end of the school year in June. The preschool will remain open.

The staff, home parish and Office for Schools had struggled for years to halt declining enrollment, a trend exacerbated by the pandemic.

The diocese is offering the academy’s families a financial package to encourage them to attend nearby Catholic schools. And it has offered to place as many of the teachers as possible in other Catholic school communities.

The elementary school in San Diego’s Paradise Hills neighborhood had seen a 32-percent decline in enrollment over the past four years, and a nearly 50-percent drop in 10-year period. A total of 78 students were enrolled in the kindergarten to eighth grade in the current school year, down from 108 in the 2017-2018 year.

The pandemic appears to have had a substantial impact on enrollment at the preschool. A total of 35 students were enrolled in preschool in the last school year. In the current one, the number dropped to 13, partly due to a distancing requirement from the county’s public health order.

“In recent years, the diocese has invested substantially in the ‘Next Gen’ educational model as a means of improving quality, innovation and attracting new families,” said John Galvan, the director of Schools for the diocese, in a letter to the parents announcing the closure. “Unfortunately, our efforts to stabilize St. Michael’s have not been successful.”

The model he referred to is a three-year project that added resources and technology to classrooms to strengthen teachers’ ability to meet the individual needs of students.

He noted that St. Michael’s Parish and the diocese did not have the capacity to subsidize the school any longer. In the 2019-2020 year alone, the school was running a deficit of around $2,700 for each student. Significantly raising tuition was not an option, he said.

He noted that the make-up of the neighborhood around the school has changed over the years, with the corresponding Zip code having less than half of the total number of children as nearby areas.

In his letter, Galvan stressed that the decision to close was not a reflection on the parish’s pastor, Father Manny Ediza, and the principal, Veronica Dayag.

“St. Michael has been a wonderful parish school for many years,” he wrote. “It is not a reflection of the value and quality of a Catholic education. Generations of children from Paradise Hills and surrounding communities have benefited from the values and lessons taught there.”

By contrast, many Catholic schools in the diocese are having to form waiting lists until the distancing requirements are lifted.

The above comes from a Feb. 24 article in the Southern Cross, diocese paper of San Diego.