Fresno Catholic school counting its blessings on its first day back in session

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The smiles on kids' faces do not reflect the anxiety felt by parents, teachers, and administrators at St. Helen's K-8 school these past few months. (KFSN)

The smiles on kids' faces do not reflect the anxiety felt by parents, teachers, and administrators at St. Helen's K-8 school these past few months.

Aglaia Torres was thrilled to be back on campus.

"It was like we won like a world championship to the game or something."

The school got a huge assist from an anonymous donor who gave a quarter of a million dollars. St. Helen's had to pay off a $580,000 debt to the Catholic Diocese or it would have to close.

Principal Jason Garza said, "Yes, it was a lot of prayer, but I don't know if those prayers would have been answered if we didn't put forth the effort and the hard work."

Some parents transferred their kids because of the uncertainty, but not twins Madison and Isabella Clark.

"I knew I was coming back," said Isabella.

But now families must step up their fundraising efforts for the 150 students.

"Fundraiser's like bracelets, selling bracelets and yard sales. Dinner nights out and movie nights," said Madison.

St. Helen's must show the Diocese it can pay salaries and benefits and stay financially afloat, but Garza said several donors have now pledged their support.

"We have, I think, more benefactors that the school has ever had."

Parents pay a monthly tuition of $402, though scholarships and financial aid are available.

St. Helen's School has served the neighborhood for 60 years. In 2015 Bishop Ochoa forgave $350,000 of school debt.

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