ROCKWOOD — St. Mary School in Rockwood, which is operated by St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish, will close at the end of the current school year, Fr. Jim Rafferty, pastor of the parish, announced April 20 in a letter to parents.
The southern Wayne County school has seen a steady decline in enrollment over several years — a trend consistent with demographic shifts that have affected both private and public education institutions in recent years. The school currently has 51 students, down from 60 and 71 in the past two school years, and 15 students in preschool.
Fr. Rafferty said the school’s current enrollment, as well as projected enrollment for 2018-19, is not enough to support the costs of maintaining the school, requiring a growing subsidy from the parish that “simply cannot be sustained over time.”
“Please know that this difficult decision was made only after deep prayer and careful discussion on many levels, including our parish finance council, my brother priests, and the archdiocese,” Fr. Rafferty wrote. “It is a decision that has been looked at from many different points of view and has not been taken lightly or rashly.”
“Our little school has been fighting bravely for many, many years to remain open, but we are now at a point that it is not viable or sustainable for the future,” Fr. Rafferty said.
Fr. Rafferty added parish and school leadership is committed to finishing the school year “with spiritual and academic strength, and working on a plan to assist our school families in their transition to other Catholic schools.”
Students entering kindergarten through eighth grade next year can receive $1,800 in tuition aid if they transfer to another Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Detroit, while students entering ninth grade whose families are parishioners at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish can receive $750 in tuition assistance if they attend an archdiocesan school.
St. Mary School was founded in 1930 under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Francis religious community. In 1962, the Adrian Dominican Sisters took over at the school, which at its high point educated more than 400 students in eight grades.
In recent years, St. Mary School had been noted for its iPad technology program, anti-bullying movements and reading initiatives.