Parents discuss, brainstorm solutions to prevent St. Patrick's School shutdown

Web Exclusive: St. Patrick's School closure

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Concerned parents and students who found out St. Patrick Catholic School will close its doors at the end of the school year gathered outside the main building on Friday to come up with a plan of action to save the school. 

Some parents who attended Friday's meeting sided with the church's decision, wanting to not create a further rift between clergy and school officials. 

Others, like Robin Bledsoe, who is the mother of a special needs student, highlighted the school's quality of education and ability to accommodate all students - something she thinks she won't find at a local public school.

"Our child has bounced around through public schools, and the only place that he has been safe and loved and cared for is here," Bledsoe said. 

Despite a difference of opinions among the group, Bledsoe and a dozen other parents felt the church's pastor Fr. Jose Paillacho, and Archdiocese of Mobile officials should have come to the meeting and clear the air between the two opposing sides.  

"[Father Jose} would be right here saying, 'I'm so sorry.' "The issue is that we can't pay our rent. How can you help us help you?"" Bledsoe said. 

"They're tossing the staff out, the teachers out, and throwing these parents and their children to the wind," said Edward McWilliams, who worked as an art instructor at St. Patrick for four years. 

In addition, some students stood before the group and wanted the community to know just what much this school means to them. 

"We just want this school to stay here," student Damien Young said.  "All years, until we graduate."

Faye Hellein, another student, said she can't think of any other school she'd rather go to instead of St. Patrick, which has become her second home. 

"I don't want to lose my family," Hellein said. 

Throughout the meeting, parents signed onto a petition asking church and Archdiocese of Mobile officials to reconsider the shutdown and work together to find a better solution.

The Archdiocese has set a closing date for St. Patrick on May 27. Those hopeful the school will stay open, like Samantha Knipe, a mother of three students at St. Patrick, will continue to fight to preserve the 100-year tradition of Catholic education in Phenix City. 

"This school's come back from a lot, so I don't see this being any different," Knipe said. "I think that until the doors close, we're going to keep fighting."

WTVM has reached out to the church's pastor and other Archdiocese officials for further comment, but they have been unavailable.

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