PITTSFIELD — St. Joseph Central High School, the last remaining Catholic high school in Berkshire County, will close at the end of the school year in June.
The announcement came in a series of meetings with board members, faculty, staff and parents, led by Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph M. Andrea Ciszewski, Springfield diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools,.
In comments to those gathered and in a letter distributed to the school community, Sister Ciszewski praised the past efforts of faculty, staff and board members in keeping the school operating, but said, in the end, a number of trends were working against them.
"As trends in the church and society evolved throughout the years, so have the St. Joseph Central High School realities of a steadily increasing cost of education, a declining school enrollment, greater financial assistance needs, the overwhelming price of renovations and major repairs of an aging facility, and increased annual operational costs," she said.
The school was formed in 1897 as St. Joseph's Academy.
Like many Catholic schools, St. Joseph's faced declining enrollment, in part a result of a declining school age population across Western Massachusetts, according to the diocese.
Initially, over the summer, school officials were optimistic that they would have their first increase in enrollment. But, at the last minute, an expected enrollment of international students fell through, leaving the Catholic secondary school with just 68 students and a significant operational deficit.
The diocese, which had provided more than $4.5 million in funding in just the last five years, could no longer afford to fund these deficits and so the decision was made to close at the end of the school year.
It has pledged to provide continuing financial assistance to those families who wish to continue to send their children to other Catholic high schools.
"It was with great sadness that this decision had to be made, but not before many years of valiant efforts by the very dedicated board, faculty and staff of St. Joseph's," said the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. "We had hoped to turn around the enrollment decline and financial deficit, but despite the very best and exemplary efforts of so many, the task proved unattainable. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who grieve the end of this great school."
This story will be updated.