The face of Catholic education in the Diocese of Oakland will change with a plan that will close five schools, and move seven schools into a separate network charged with bolstering the educational and faith formation experience by sharing teaching specialists and administrative services.

The five schools that will close at the end of the 2016-17 school year are: Sts. Jarlath, Lawrence O’Toole and Martin de Porres, all in Oakland; Our Lady of the Rosary School in Union City; and St. Jerome School in El Cerrito.

Parents at the five schools that are closing were notified by letter that was sent home with students on Jan. 19. The closure affects approximately 642 students and 90 employees. There is ample room for the students at the seven network schools, as well as nearby Catholic schools, the diocese said.

The seven schools that will join the new network in fall 2018 are Sts. Anthony and Elizabeth in Oakland; Queen of All Saints School in Concord; St. Catherine of Siena School in Martinez; St. Cornelius School in Richmond; St. Paul School in San Pablo; and St. Peter Martyr School in Pittsburg.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said the closures and creation of the network come at the end of a “major diocesan consultation process that’s been going on for two years,” studying finances, parishes, schools and charitable works. The committee, he said, included a mixed group of people, not just those involved in schools. “I think it’s been very healthy,” he said.

The schools that are closing have experienced “consistent drops in enrollment,” Bishop Barber said.

“We’re offering a good product but our families don’t want to take advantage of it, or can’t, either because they can’t pay tuition, which is reasonable by private school standards, or Catholic education for their kids is not something they consider important.

“The rising rents and mortgage costs of living in the East Bay take up so much of their earned income, that there’s little left over food and living, let alone a ‘luxury’ item like Catholic education,” he said.

One of the main benefits of the network the bishop said he sees is funding. “Right now, they’re all chasing the same benefactors,” he said. “Whether you’re in Richmond or East Oakland or Union City or West Oakland, you’re chasing the same corporations. I want to have one development director to get money that will be shared with all the schools.

“They found in other dioceses, when they formed the separate network, donations from corporations went up,” he said.

What the diocese can’t do, he said, is continue to keep the doors open at schools with empty desks.

“I think there’s a mistaken assumption that it’s the duty of the Catholic Church to provide a nearly free education for anyone who wants to come to our school,” he said. “I think that is false.”

Full story at The Catholic Voice.