Two south St. Louis parish schools will close after this academic year.
The decision to shutter St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Heart of Mary comes as leaders of nine parishes on the city's south side continue looking at ways to address declining enrollment and rising costs.
The collaborative agreed that all seven other schools involved in the discussions will remain open at least through the 2014-15 school year.
The decision to close the two schools was not a surprise. St. John the Baptist Elementary School raised more than $240,000 in the past year to remain open. And in January, Principal Melissa Langevin of Immaculate Heart of Mary told the Post-Dispatch that the school had just enough finances to remain open for this school year.
In the past 15 years, enrollment at the school dropped to fewer than 150 from nearly 400 students.
Representatives from the two schools slated for closing will remain involved in future meetings "to ensure that the students of their schools have a long-term option for continuing their Catholic education," states a news release from the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Monsignor Michael Turek, pastor at St. Joan of Arc, said discussion among the parish leaders will continue. The group had hoped to have a long-term solution in place by the beginning of 2014.
"We bit off more than we could chew. That was an aggressive timeline to deal with the complexity of the issues," Turek said of the meetings that began about a year ago.
"What we don't want to do is put a Band-Aid on the problem."
Beyond St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Heart, the other parishes involved in the collaboration include: Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Ambrose, St. James the Greater, St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Joan of Arc and St. Stephen Protomartyr.
In the 2012-13 school year, there were 2,592 students enrolled in elementary schools in the South City Deanery, according to the St. Louis Archdiocese. That is a drop of more than 1,500 students in a decade.