Our Lady of Schools in Halifax, NS is suspending operations.
After the school’s graduation in June, Our Lady of Schools won’t be open to accept students in the fall. With the need to find a new location and low registration forecasted for next year, the school’s board decided earlier this month not the re-open in September 2013.
The co-ed, day school serving families in and around the Halifax area, opened in 2002 when a group of parents were granted permission by Archbishop Prendergast to establish a new independent Catholic school.
Opened with the aim of providing faith-based education at tuition rates that were affordable for a wide range of young families, it offers a senior primary program, full elementary curriculum and an optional junior high experience.
This small-but-mighty school peaked its enrolment number this year with more than 30 students. The suspension of operations of Our Lady of Schools comes at the tail-end of a challenging year. After celebrating the school’s 10th anniversary last year, this term started out uncertainly.
Four days into the year, the school was forced to relocate due to flooding of their education space. The board turned to the generosity of the local Catholic community to quickly find a new – but temporary – space for its students. The school has since been running in The Village at Bayers Road, a unique service and professional complex located in the west end of the city.
Joni Ashley, chair of the OLOS board, said education at Our Lady of Schools is guided by the teachings of the church. “We wanted to instill in children that faith is a part of who they are, not just something they think about on Sundays,” she said, adding that teaching using the Catholic faith enriches not only the lives of the students, but also entire families.
She said Nova Scotia hasn’t had a publically available Catholic school in more than 40 years, so it can be challenging to help people realize that such schools have a purpose. “We have generations who haven’t attended a Catholic school, so we struggle with people understanding the value of a Catholic education,” she said.
Bon Fagan, co-ordinator at Roman Catholic Schools Association, Atlantic Region, said OLOS and all Catholic independent schools in the Atlantic Provinces must find their own means of financial support with tuition and donations helping to make up the operating budget.
Fagan said capital expenses, too, must be found when necessary, although three of the schools in the region operate in buildings leased to them by their dioceses. “Naturally, with no government funding and no direct church involvement in covering operating costs, tuition fees have to be met by parents and donors,” Fagan said. “No student in these schools is prevented from registering simply from lack of funds; hence a bursary program plays a big role in each school.”
He said one of the agencies to which students may turn is CCSTA’s Endowment Fund. Since 2006, the fund has assisted students in paying their tuition to attend Catholic schools in Canadian provinces with limited or no public funding. Each year, students and communities throughout the country support the Endowment Fund through the Toonies for Tuition fundraising campaign.
Fagan acknowledges that it is a big challenge to operate Catholic independent schools in the Atlantic Provinces. “Still, in the past dozen years, several schools have been founded,” he said. “The two smallest have not been able to survive – OLOS and Holy Cross, in St. Alban’s, NL, which closed four years ago. The schools which continue are quite vigorously working to ensure that they continue to be available for parents who wish to send their children to a Catholic school.”