A tale of two parochial schools Hudson Catholic, Sacred Heart in JC find ways to survive in tough climate

Whenever there is news on a parochial elementary school or high school in Hudson County, the headline is usually about it closing.

But Hudson Catholic High School on Bergen Avenue (near Journal Square) in Jersey City, and Sacred Heart Elementary School in the Greenville section of the city, are trying to avoid that fate in different ways.

Hudson Catholic, the subject of articles this past spring when the school threatened to close, is now going coed and making other moves to boost enrollment. They plan to raise $1.5 million to upgrade facilities in the school and to keep their current $7,500/year tuition steady.

Sacred Heart, which is holding a 95th anniversary gala this coming Sunday at the Harborside Waterfront Center Atrium in Jersey City, has been publicizing the fact that they are still open even though their church of the same name closed in 2005.

Hudson Catholic and Sacred Heart are two of the 28 parochial schools in Hudson County that are overseen by the Archdiocese of Newark.Creating a new history

Father Warren Hall officially started working as the president/principal of Hudson Catholic High on July 1, 2008, 27 years after he graduated from the school. One of the first things he did was put in a glass door.

“I replaced the wooden door that used to be there, and put in a glass door instead because I wanted to show people what I am doing and that I have an open-door policy,” Hall said.

Since July, Hall has been working non-stop to not only run the school but also to lay out a new direction to go forward for future years. That includes constant meetings with students, staff, and parents to let them know how the school is running, both the good and the bad.

Also, a “Board of Consulters” has been formed including alumni and experts in education to oversee the fundraising to keep the school operating, and to prepare for the first coed class in the school’s history.

Hall said he is optimistic about next year when girls will enter the school. This should increase enrollment from the current amount of 314 to over 470, he said.

He said the school can accommodate about 600 students. He noted that not only will there have to be physical changes to the school building such as women’s restrooms and locker rooms, but also cultural changes. Sacred Heart is still beating

The corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Bayview Avenue in Jersey City has seen hard times and increasing crime over the years.

But one constant the last 95 years has been Sacred Heart Elementary School.

Until 2005, both the school and the church that lent the school its name were a powerful presence in this area of the city when there was a thriving congregation. But with parishioners moving away from the city, the nearby church closed, and student enrollment has been shrinking.

Sister Frances Salemi, Sacred Heart’s principal and a faculty member since 1974, was looking forward last week to the upcoming gala. She said it would bring together “a tight-knit” community that never really lost touch with one another.

But she also admitted that the reason for having the gala was because they weren’t sure the school would be open for its 100th anniversary. The gala, a fundraiser, may help.

Rosemary Sekel, a guidance counselor at the school for the past 16 years, said she still marvels at the faculty, many of whom have worked 20 years or more at the school, for staying at the school for so long.

The impact of the school can also be seen on the children, with 225 students in classes from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Last week, 5-year-old Kenya Curry, a precocious first-grader, was with her classmates in the principal’s office making paper angels for the gala.

She greeted this reporter like a miniature adult, saying, “I love this school and I like the teachers.” Comments on this story can be sent to rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com


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