After 105 years, St. Camillus Academy in Corbin to close in May
An artist's rendering of St. Camillus Academy's first school building which has since been demolished.
The sixth grade students at St. Camillus Academy spent time Thursday searching the school for items they could sell on eBay. Their goal was to help raise money to keep the 105-year-old school open beyond May 23.
Principal Terry Newquist said an official letter announcing that the school would close came from the Diocese of Lexington, which operates the school that was founded by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1908, on Tuesday.
“It was a financial decision,” Newquist said was reason the diocese gave for the decision, noting the school, which has nine grade levels from pre-kindergarten to sixth grades, and has an annual operating budget of approximately $600,000.
Newquist added that most of that funding comes from tuition. The remainder comes from grant money and fund raising projects.
In addition to the eBay idea, Newquist said the 83 students have been racking their brains to come up with other fundraising ideas to keep the school open.
“They all have plans to save the school,” Newquist said of the students.
Parents, who were informed Tuesday night via e-mail, have been working on ideas as well. Newquist, whose children have attended St. Camillus, said parents are planning to meet next week to determine what they can do to keep the school open.
“We will not go down without a fight,” Newquist said. “We are researching our options.”
While the diocese has been operating the school under an agreement with the sisters, whose motherhouse is in Melbourne, Newquist said the sisters still own the school and the property.
Because of the diminishing number of nuns and their advanced ages, Newquist said there are only two who are still teaching at the school. Sister Rosella Summe, who teaches third grade, admitted it would be difficult if the school does close and she is forced to relocate. While there are other opportunities in education for her and the other teachers, the students would not have another option in the area to receive a Catholic education.
“We have thought about asking a different order of sisters to come in and run the school,” Newquist said.
In addition to searching for ideas to raise money, Newquist said the students are writing letters to Bishop Ronald Gainer, who heads the diocese, in an effort to change his mind about closing the school.
“It would kill all of us,” Newquist said of the parents, faculty staff and students. “It is not just a school for all of us, it is a part of our lives.”
Calls to the bishop’s office and to the superintendent’s office were not returned.
If the school does close, Newquist said the property and building will likely be sold.
According to the school’s website, the 35-acre tract of land was purchased in 1914. Construction of the old building began soon after. It opened in May 1915. By the early 1970s, enrollment grew to 300 students in grades one through 12. The existing building was constructed in 1973. At the time it housed the grade school, while the high school continued in the original building. The first Kindergarten class was added in 1985 and Montessori class began in 1996. The high school closed in 1996 due to decreasing enrollment and increasing expenses.
Newquist said a similar situation resulted in the school dropping seventh and eighth grade classes this year.
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