LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Four years after its 100th anniversary, the Sacred Heart/Katharine Drexel School in Lake Charles is closing for at least a year.

The school, which opened in 1908, has stayed open for the past two years by borrowing heavily and seeking alumni support, Monsignor Ronald Groth told The American Press ( ). Bishop Glen John Provost gave $35,000 from his own funds, said Groth, pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, which owns the school.

Provost said, "The alumni and alumnae of Sacred Heart School are an impressive group. Bishops, priests, nuns, leaders in business, law, science and education walked the halls of the school as students, along with the imposing figure of St. Katharine Drexel, whose initial grant enabled both the church and the convent to be built."

But the church still owes more than $100,000 on a loan used to keep the school open during the past school year.

Groth said the school needs about 135 students paying tuition to meet its $636,000-a-year budget. Last fall only 75 enrolled, including 14 in a state-paid preschool program.

"The parish may revive the school," Groth said. "The bishop mandated to leave the possibility. You never know."

Kimberlee Gazzolo, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Lake Charles, said last week that the school had registered five students for next school year and that only a handful of families attended an early enrollment open house. That was ominous, she said. Last year, Sacred Heart had enrolled 35 students in June 2011 for the 2011-12 year; the final enrollment was nowhere near enough to pay bills.

Without money and students, she said, it is simply too risky to sign teacher contracts and commit to another financially perilous school year.


Information from: American Press,