On October 8, 2009, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the closing of Cardinal Dougherty High School at the completion of the 2009-2010 school year due to low and continually declining enrollment. As June is approaching, the reality of the looming closure is starting to sink in to students at the school in Olney.
“Hearing the announcement that [Cardinal Dougherty] was closing was a large shock,” said 2007 graduate Bonnie Templin, “but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise. During my junior year, enrollment dropped to under a thousand
students. When my mom went there, there were thousands of kids.”
Following a teachers’ meeting, the administration at Cardinal Dougherty held a school-wide assembly to deliver the news to the student body, despite rumors already circulating for quite some time.
“I think every member of the school’s community knew the archdiocese would eventually have to close the school,” Templin added, “but everyone was taken aback at how suddenly the announcement came.”
“There were rumors [about the closure], but nobody really believed them,” said Ariel Parker, a sophomore. “[Everyone was] like ‘No, it’s not, it’s not.’ They finally sat us down in the auditorium and said the school was closing. Everyone was upset, angry, crying.”
The main dilemma for Parker now, as well as most other students not part of the graduating class, is making arrangements for the next school year.
“Nobody expected it to close,” said Parker, “and it’s really sad because I expected to start and finish at this school. It’s really hard because we have to find new schools and it’s not really easy to do that.”
Becky Searight, the senior class president, can’t quite relate, but sympathizes with the students who are searching for a new alma mater.
“It’s kind of bittersweet for me,” said Searight, “because I feel so happy that I’m able to graduate and I’m going to be the last class, but I have friends that aren’t going to be able to graduate from here so it’s really hard.”
Senior Luther Harland agreed. “It’s kind of bad luck for the juniors, especially because they’ve been here for three years and now they’ve got to split all up.”
Mary Bulmer has two nieces who attend Cardinal Dougherty, and she is worried about how a transition to new schools outside of their community will affect their educations.
“[They’re] upset because we have several family members who attended this school,” Bulmer said. “One graduated last year. They live in the neighborhood so it’s disheartening that this school has to close and now they have to find another school. They’re used to their routine and the curriculum and the activities. I just hope that [my nieces] will be able to make the adjustment smoothly.”
For some, the adjustment will be a big one—although many soon-to-be former Cardinal Dougherty students will be attending other schools within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Some receive scholarship to attend their current school. As this money doesn’t necessarily carry over, some students will be attending public or charter schools next fall.
In any case, Cardinal Dougherty is doing all it can to assist families in finding new educational placement for their children. Cardinal Dougherty’s Web site has bulletins posted offering help in selecting new schools for the next school year.
A major part of the school searching process for many students is finding the sense of community they previously felt when attending classes and walking through the halls of Cardinal Dougherty High School.
“As an eighth grader I didn’t want to come [to Cardinal Dougherty],” recalled Harland. “I never visited here or anything. I wanted to go to [LaSalle College High School]. When I got here, I liked it. It was like another family.”
“From the first day I stepped into Cardinal Dougherty, I felt at home,” agreed Templin. “It’s an atmosphere that no matter where you come from, you always belong. I don’t know how to explain how much Dougherty has done for me, but I’m trying. Being a Cardinal will always be a huge identifier in my life.”