KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A second Catholic school in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph announced Sunday morning it would close at the end of the year.
Christ the King School first opened in Kansas City, Mo., in 1945 with 46 students. Over time the school expanded and had close to a thousand students, but recently those numbers have dwindled. Only 58 students pre-registered for next year.
On Sunday, the priest gave a letter to parishioners announcing the school will close at the end of the school year.
"I have been a long-time parishioner," said Carl Nothnagel, who had three children attend the school. "It's sad for us to see the school close up. I think the church needs a school, and the school needs a church. We have had three kids go through here."
Meeghan Northcott's 11-year-old son was registered to attend next year. When she heard the news, she was shocked.
"We are trying to figure out a plan b now, and it's really unfortunate," Northcott said. "It's a really good school. Academically speaking, it's really awesome, and they were one of the cheaper Catholic schools in the area."
Former students were also disappointed to hear the news.
"I think it is really sad," Kelly Seeger said. "It's historical. It has been here for a really long time. I know that the enrollment has been down over the last few years; it's a great school. So it's just very sad."
The school has been open for 68 years, and was once called the "big school at the end of town at 85th Street," but with less than 100 students, the priest said they could not afford to keep the school open.
The decision does not affect the infant-toddler center or the Montessori Preschool – both will stay open next year.
A second school in the diocese announced in January it would close at the end of the year. St. Mary's in Independence cited enrollment numbers as the cause of its closure as well.
See the letter distributed to parishioners on page 2.
Dear Parishioners, School Families, and Staff,
For sixty-eight years, Christ the King Parish has provided parish school Catholic education to our children, and those from our local community interested in having their children educated in a safe environment where virtue and knowledge have always gone hand-in-hand. This is a heritage to be celebrated and honored, as the hard work of our parents, teachers and staff have made this reality what it is. I meet graduates of our parish school each week out in our town who are proud and grateful that they attended CTK.
Now it is time to look at the new realities brought on by our local demographics and culture. We used to be the big school at the end of town at 85th Street. Then, in later years, we became the "little" school between St. Elizabeth's and St. Thomas More. Our neighborhood has stayed pretty much the same, but our enrollment has not. Our students have become fewer and fewer over the years; this was to be expected, but, I'm sure, was hard to accept. There aren't as many kids to go around among our families, and the advantages of our neighboring schools have grown while ours have, in truth, diminished. Children need a certain size of peer group in a school setting to maximize their learning and growing, and it has gotten to the point here where we have too few for that best experience.
Financially, the decreased enrollment has increased the pressure on our church family; our collection has steadily decreased over the past several years. Our family here is older and less able to meet these financial challenges. Last year our deficit was very large, and we cannot sustain these losses again. There comes a time when enrollment and finances come together to force your hand to do something that you hoped to never do. That time is now.
After spending a great deal of time in conversation with Dr. Dan Peters, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for our diocese, as well as Bishop Finn, our finance council, interested and willing parents, virtually anyone from whom I could get a helpful word or wise counsel, I have come to the conclusion that we cannot keep Christ the King School open after the end of this academic year. Although I have consulted many people, this decision is my own, as pastor of the parish, and I am the one responsible. It is also the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. This decision does not affect the Infant-Toddler Center or the Montessori Pre-School; both will continue into next year.
I want to thank the school committee that worked on possible alternatives for us to consider; they worked long and hard, but in the end we just couldn't do it. Our principal, Barb Deane, did a wonderful job of thinking outside the box for these alternatives and there was tremendous energy focused on possibly keeping the school open. Our school families are great people, our kids are the best, our staff second to none, all factors which make this reality all the harder.
However, as I said at the top of this letter, we have nothing to be sorry for in our long history. The school has been here and thriving many years after our community expected it to be closed. The generosity and thorough decency of the people of Christ the King willed this school to be open, year after year. This is something to be proud of and to remember. The parish with few advantages, always the little sister, made a great contribution to our Church and our community. Our graduates are everywhere in Kansas City and across the country, and our community, city, and country are better for it.
As pastor, I promise you, we will do everything we can to take care of our own, staff and students. In the coming weeks the School Office and Human Resources offices from our diocese will be involved in helping to take care of our people who will need to find other schools or employment.
I am as sorry as I can be that this has come upon us. May God bless us as we do what we must do. Let us pray for each other and our families and, at some point, remember the legacy of our school: Thousands of graduates, great Catholic people, and a Church and world better for them.
In the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Fr. Gregory J. Lockwood, Pastor