Late in the winter, there was a herculean effort made to help save St. Theresa School in Hellertown from closing. A beloved parish school that has educated local children for 80 years, enrollment had declined steeply, and school officials said they would need to raise approximately $130,000 in order to close a tuition-subsidy gap by the end of the year.
With help from parents, volunteers and community supporters, nearly $90,000 was raised as part of a “Close the Gap Campaign” before the COVID-19 pandemic effectively put an end to fundraising efforts. However, as it turned out that amount would not be enough to sustain the school’s operations for another year.
Father Jerome Tauber, who is pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish, announced Tuesday that the school will close for good, in part due to the missed goal, but also because of a decrease in donations to the parish this spring.
“Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the weekly collection over the last eight weeks has been far less than could support a $200,000 a year subsidy to the school,” he said in a letter addressed to the community. “Both school and parish fundraising have also significantly declined. With the limited reserves left in the parish savings and given that the parish can no longer generate the needed subsidy amount to allow the school to remain open in a K-8 or a K-5 configuration without a substantial deficit, I regretfully announce that St. Theresa School will close at the end of the current school year in June.”
“Prior to finalizing this decision, the situation at our school was reviewed by our Parish Finance Council, the Diocesan Council of Priests and the Diocesan Board of Education,” Tauber added. “After review of the parish and school financial information and the school enrollment, these advisory bodies recommended to Bishop (Alfred) Schlert that St. Theresa School close at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. After prayerful consideration and ‘with deep personal regret’ Bishop Schlert accepted the recommendation for closure. Bishop Schlert is grateful to the parishioners of Saint Theresa Parish for their long-term support of the school and for the ‘heroic efforts’ of all those involved in the Close the Gap Campaign.”
He also noted that donors to the Close the Gap Campaign will have their donations refunded.
Tauber said he remains grateful to the school’s principal, Deacon Peter Schutzler, and to the dedicated teachers and staff who have made St. Theresa School such a special place.
St. Theresa Parish will continue to operate a pre-school program, which will be relocated to the main school building for the 2020-2021 school year. Administrative and financial plans for the program still need to be developed and finalized, Tauber’s letter indicated.