Sacred Heart Catholic School will stay open

FRESNO, Calif.

Sacred Heart was on the verge of closing its doors because of poor enrollment numbers. A viability study was conducted to determine if the struggling school could survive. Bishop Armando Ochoa weighed in on the issue Tuesday, announcing his support to keep it open.

Classrooms at Sacred Heart in Central Fresno will remain open and uninterrupted - at least for the time being. "This is one of my best friends right here and he might have gone to a different school if it closed," said 7th grader Michael Baeza.

Students were relieved to find out the Fresno Bishop gave his blessing to save the school from closing. In a letter addressed to the community, the Bishop said the overwhelming support played a key role in his decision. "I have received many personal letters and have spoken with many families who ardently support the school. I have also heard about the remarkable way the Sacred Heart community has rallied to save their school," read the Bishop's statement.

Sister Kathleen Drilling serves as principal of the 63-year-old institution and informed the students of the good news. "Today I told them at noon. They were in the cafeteria and they cheered and now they have a chance to continue their education here," said Drilling.

But the school's financial outlook is still bleak. Sacred Heart faces a $400,000 debt. To remain open, it must meet certain benchmarks. "There's a lot of growing that needs to be done here. I think the most important issue is enrollment and they need to pull out together and bring in as many children as they can into the school," said Superintendent Richard Sexton.

Enrollment has to increase gradually each year beginning with at least 25 students this coming school year - not an easy task when tuition runs at $3,300. "Now we have to keep praying. We just have to keep remaining faithful," said Drilling.

The Catholic school says despite the many hurdles that lie ahead, it will continue to take in students with arms wide open.

Bishop Ochoa went on to say he's a strong supporter of Catholic education but warns failure to meet any of the benchmarks could result in the closure of Sacred Heart. For now, the school has some time to beef up its recruitment efforts.

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