Honolulu Diocese tries
to get 5 schools in order

Some parents fear the church's
effort may mean their children's
schools are in danger

The Diocese of Honolulu is asking five Catholic schools in the state to prepare reports on their administrative challenges in curriculum, enrollment and finances, officials said.

Although the request has some students' parents fearful that their school may be in danger of closing, a church official said the request is aimed at helping the schools plan for a future in difficult times, not to determine what schools may need to be shut down.

"The diocese is trying to be proactive in addressing the problems of schools that may be in trouble for a variety of reasons -- either financially or with enrollment -- so they can catch problems early," Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Diocese of Honolulu, said yesterday.

Statewide, the Honolulu Diocese oversees operations of 10 preschools and 26 grade schools, Downes said. There also are seven Catholic high schools in the state, though some of them are private schools that are not attached to a specific parish, he said.

On Maui, parents of children at three schools -- St. Joseph, Christ the King and St. Anthony Junior Senior High -- told The Maui News that those schools were asked to prepare the so-called "future viability" reports.

Downes declined to identify the two other schools that were asked to prepare the reports, which provide "an overall snapshot of the financial health of the school and the enrollment health of the school."

At St. Joseph School in Makawao, knowledge of the diocesan request had parents complaining about a lack of information and of cooperation by church leadership.

"Myself as well as other parents feel that the decision has already been made. There doesn't seem to be a strong commitment to saving the school," Jon Lazo, an alumnus and parent of a child at the school, told the newspaper.

Downes said the reports are being requested to avoid a situation similar to what happened at Our Lady of Sorrows in Wahiawa on Oahu. The school was forced to close earlier this year due to low enrollment.

He said enrollment in the kindergarten-through-8th-grade school fell below 100 students and was on a "downward spiral."

"It's happened in the past where a school doesn't address the problems until it's too late, then they're faced with big decisions like closure," he said.

St. Joseph Principal Ed Alexander said the request for a viability report was positive, leading people to call and ask how they can help the campus.


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