Private Catholic School fighting to stay open

By Crystal Price - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Sacred Heart St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School has been serving Catholic students for more than a century.

"Sacred Heart St. Katharine Drexel School was founded in 1908," says Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, Principal of Sacred Heart. "Many students have passed through the doors of Sacred Heart School since it's founding."

But like most private Catholic schools across the country, Sacred Heart has seen a gradual decline in student enrollment through the economic downturn.

Principal Bellow also feels a change in modern society plays another role in enrollment decline.

"We realize some parents are looking for a more diverse learning community for their children," says Principal Bellow.

The families who once lived near 1100 Mill Street, have now shifted to other areas of town.

"The number of families with children in this part of Lake Charles has decreased, so that limits our neighborhood prospects," says

While 115 students are currently attending Sacred Heart, officials say that's not near where they need to be to maintain financial stability.

"I think an ultimate enrollment of about 150 or 160 is our goal, a shortfall of 25 students translates into a $75,000 shortfall," says Father Henry Mancuso, Director of Sacred Heart School.

Unlike public schools, this private school relies on student tuition to keep the school going.

"When we don't have students paying tuition, it impacts our budget," says Principal Bellow.

School officials are looking to recruit students outside of the school district in an effort to increase enrollment.

The school plans to do this by holding more frequent recruiting events all over southwest Louisiana.

"There is no plan to close the school at this time, we don't want present parents to panic," says Father Mancuso. "But we do need to recognize that if we don't do something now, we may not be here 2 years from now."

Until they can get enrollment up, the school is accepting donations from the community.

If you are interested in helping out the Sacred Heart, school officials say you can contact them at (337) 436-3588.

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