The Norwich Diocese has given a parental group at St. Joseph School five weeks to attract between 20 and 30 more students or the school will face closure.
But the parents are taking a positive approach to it all.
That was the word on Wednesday from Ken Gordon, the parent campaign coordinator at the school, located at 41 West St., near the intersection of Union Street.
Gordon pulled no punches in an interview on Wednesday by saying that the cloud hanging over the 105-year-old Catholic School is just another source of consternation for parents these days along with the state placing Vernon on an undefined "bottom 30" list of school systems and public school officials researching potential reconfiguration of the elementary schools.
The town's elementary schools serve students in pre-K through 5, while St. Joseph services those in pre-K through 8 and draws from Vernon, Tolland and Elington. It is currently being subsidized by the diocese.
Three years ago, the school had about 130 students in it, but as of Wednesday, the roster stood at 58 for next year, Gordon said. That was up eight from the enrollment of 50 discussed with Diocesan Superintendent John Shine in a meeting on April 19, Gordon said.
But rather than panic when Shine put the school on notice for closure, members of the parent campaign committee decided to take a pro-active approach.
They cut a deal with Shine.
"I was not prepared to negotiate, but he was willing to discuss it," Gordon said of the conversation with Shine. "It is still 20-30 but our goal is to get 25 students by May 18."
The Parent Campaign committee was to meet Wednesday night to draw up a recruiting strategy, Gordon said.
Gordon said he might be able to pick up some students whose parents are afraid to lose the neighborhood school feeling if reconfiguration goes through, but he is also worried that St. Joseph might lose some students out of frustration because of the ambiguity of its status.
"I think we can get to 25," he said.
The school picked up eight this week to get to 58, Gordon said.
Gordon said that, on aptitude tests, St. Joseph students score higher than the town and national averages.
In addition to academics, St. Joseph is known for its community service.
Some of the activities include:
• Raising funds to help pay medical bills for a 5-year-old Vernon resident suffering from a liver disorder.
• Creating knot blankets for premature babies born at Hartford Hospital.
• Baking loaves of bread and donating them to the area food bank.
• Creating more than 400 cards sent to the elderly, shut-ins and those with illnesses.
For information on the recruitment campaign, callGordon at 860-875-4146. The school can be reached at 860-875-4943.
Gordon said tuition is $335 per month to $470 per month, "depending on how active a Catholic you are."
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