LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Holy Cross Regional Catholic School has been a Lynchburg staple since 1879, but this year will be its last.
The Diocese of Richmond announced yesterday it would shut down the school at the end of the academic year, citing low enrollment numbers. Holy Cross, which is a K-12 school, currently has 156 students, including a graduating class of just four students.
“It’s difficult for me to say this, and I know it’s even more difficult for them to hear it," said Kelly Lazzara, Diocese of Richmond Superintendent. "This is not something that was taken lightly.”
Holy Cross had more than 400 students at the turn of the millennium, and Lazzara said the decline mirrors a larger trend within the diocese. Lazzara said enrollment in Catholic schools within the Diocese of Richmond dropped 12% in the past decade, and Holy Cross’ shrinking population made it impossible to keep the school open.
“With the decline in enrollment has come a significant deficit," Lazzara said. "There’s a $3.2 million deficit currently for Holy Cross.”
The decision has proven hard to handle for some close to Holy Cross, including John Jones, who served as the school’s principal for 25 years.
“I got to see, to some extent in my time there, the kids I had bringing their kids back," Jones said. "I could tell those kids, ‘I taught your mom and dad.’”
Jones says it will be hard for the Hill City to lose the family atmosphere Holy Cross had built up in its 140 years of operation.
“It was worth more than any paycheck I have ever received. I probably would have done it for nothing,” Jones said. “I’d want a Holy Cross School kid as a neighbor. They’re good kids, they make good citizens, and they do good deeds.”
The closest Catholic schools to Holy Cross are in Roanoke, Danville and Charlottesville. The Diocese of Richmond plans to invite representatives from all three surrounding schools to Holy Cross for an informational session before the school year ends.