Bishop Ochoa says St. Helen's School in Fresno will remain open

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St. Helen's Catholic School has been a staple to Southeast Fresno for 64 years. But after building up debt over the last nine years, they almost had to shut its doors. (KFSN)

St. Helen's Catholic School has been a staple to Southeast Fresno for 64 years. But after building up debt over the last nine years, they almost had to shut its doors.

"I looked at the kids and I did not want to be the one to tell them they have to find a new school-- I said no way, not going to happen, I kept pressing forward," said Jason Garza, Principal.

Administrators said the community saved the school by holding fundraiser's and raising money, but they were still short and nearing their deadline. Until a local mystery donor gave the school the remaining $250,000 they still owed

"I'm happy to inform you that the debt owed to the Diocese in the amount of over $580,000 has been paid back in full," said Armando Ochoa, Bishop.

And now Ochoa said a strategic plan for sustainability over the next five years has been designed and presented to the superintendent.

"Really we're not thinking for one academic year at a time," said Ochoa.

The Superintendent said in the past the schools debt to their health and benefits trust fund would be paid by the Diocese if they fell short. But beginning July 1st, benefits payments will be automatically taken out from every schools account just like payroll is.

"Now it's going to be treated like any other bill, it's just an auto-withdrawal that will come out every month so we won't run into this problem again," said Mona Faulkner, Superintendent.

Faulkner also said, staff members who were laid off will be offered their jobs back, but they need to make sure they don't over-staff, so some full-time positions may need to become part-time.

"We can't do things one year at a time, we have to look broadly so those practices have to sustain us year after year and I'm confident the families will step up and do whatever is needed."

The schools said about 180 students are registered for the coming school year but they are hoping to enroll more.

Related Topics:
educationeducationcatholic schoolFresno
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