In this May 2014 file photo, eighth-graders in Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro, crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary during a celebration in which they recognized the Holy Father’s devotion to the Mother of Jesus. Jeff Metzner photo
In this May 2014 file photo, eighth-graders in Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro, crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary during a celebration in which they recognized the Holy Father’s devotion to the Mother of Jesus. Jeff Metzner photo
June is bringing the closure of two elementary schools in the Diocese of Trenton, but their legacies will live on in the good works, faith-based learning and friendships fostered over the years.

“The halls of these schools hold much history and memories,” said JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. “The legacies are carried in the hearts of many as schoolteachers imparted the faith and provided an exceptional educational experience.”

On Dec. 10 last year, it was announced that Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro, which is overseen by the Diocese, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Maple Shade, which is sponsored by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, would be closing at the end of the current school year. Significant financial shortfalls and declining enrollment were the impetus for the difficult decision of school closures.

“Gratitude is expressed to pastors, administrators and faculty, past and present, and to all who have left their imprint on minds and hearts of children throughout the course of each school’s history,” Tier said.

Pope John Paul II Regional School, adjacent to Corpus Christi Church, was established in 2006 as part of a comprehensive restructuring plan for Burlington County. Staffed by lay administration and faculty, the K-8 enrollment for 2019-2020 was 113 students – below the 220-student benchmark cited as necessary for financial sustainability.

The four nearby sponsoring parishes of the school have experienced their own financial challenges and mergers, leaving them unable to continue with support, requiring diocesan sponsorship to take their place to the tune of nearly $2.5 million.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was founded in 1928, serving the needs of kindergarten through eighth-grade Catholic schoolchildren in the Maple Shade area. Staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph it, too, has also experienced a continued decline in enrollment. Only 125 students attended during the current school year. The parish and school together have amassed a $4.8 million debt to the Diocese, which leaves the parish unable to cover the school’s financial shortfall caused by low enrollment.

Over the past few months, the Diocese’s Department of Catholic Schools has been working with the schools to assist staff and families in the transition.

“During this difficult time, sincere thanks are expressed to the administrators, Mrs. Cynthia Smith, principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, and Mrs. Catherine Zagola, principal of Pope John Paul II Regional School, for their leadership through the years,” Tier said.  “Appreciation is extended to Catholic educators who knew the story of each child, walked with them during their formative years, and provided instruction, guidance and investment that contributed to each child’s growth.”