Lapeer's Bishop Kelley School closes after 72 years due to declining enrollment

Bishop Kelley Catholic School students celebrate Catholic Schools Week in 2020 in this file photo. The 72-year-old Lapeer school will close after the 2021-22 academic year after declining enrollment the past few years. Last year, just 38 students were enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade. (Detroit Catholic file photo)

Just 38 students enrolled in K-8 school during 2021-22 academic year, pushing costs higher than parish able to afford

LAPEER — Bishop Kelley Catholic School in Lapeer will permanently close after the 2021-22 academic year amid declining enrollment.

Fr. Brian Hurley, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer, which sponsors the school, announced the decision June 15 in a letter to parents.

According to reports, Bishop Kelley School’s enrollment totaled just 38 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at the end of the 2021-22 academic year, a decline of approximately 100 students since the start of the 2019-20 school year.

At that enrollment level, the cost per student to attend the school would be approximately $14,000, Fr. Hurley said, according to a report in the County Press newspaper in Lapeer. The school charged families just $3,500 per student during the 2021-22 academic year, with the difference in cost being made up by the parish.

“It became clear that the costs associated with the operation of the school were significantly higher than the school and parish are able to support,” Fr. Hurley said, according to the newspaper.

Bishop Kelley Memorial School opened in 1950 in response to a need for Catholic education in rural Lapeer and its surrounding towns. (Detroit Catholic file photo)
Bishop Kelley Memorial School opened in 1950 in response to a need for Catholic education in rural Lapeer and its surrounding towns. (Detroit Catholic file photo)

Bishop Kelley School will offer assistance to families seeking to continue their children’s education at other nearby Catholic schools. St. Joseph Catholic School in Lake Orion is the closest Catholic K-8 school in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Fr. Hurley said the school also will work with Bishop Kelley teachers and administrators to help them find employment.

Bishop Kelley Memorial School opened its doors in 1950 to give children in Lapeer and the surrounding rural communities the option for a Catholic-based education. The school, sponsored by Immaculate Conception Parish, was built in part thanks to a $60,000 donation from the Extension Society, a foundation established by the school’s namesake, Bishop Francis C. Kelley.

Bishop Kelley served the Lapeer Catholic community as a priest in the early 1900s. He eventually became a bishop in Oklahoma, and died in 1948.

The original Bishop Kelley School faculty included nuns from the Dominican Republic who taught nearly 100 students in four classrooms. Additional classrooms and a gymnasium were eventually added, and in 1977, the sisters left the school. It has been staffed by full-time teachers since. The building was again expanded in 2010 with new classrooms, staff offices and a cafeteria.



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