North Hills families adjust to new Catholic schools after merger
The Kunz family is one of many in Western Pennsylvania committed to sending their children to Catholic schools.
The children, Thomas and Stella, have attended Catholic schools since kindergarten. This school year, they'll go to Blessed Francis Seelos Academy, a new school resulting from the merger of Saint Alphonsus and Saint Alexis.
"We're really from the same community; a lot of the parents and children from saying we know each other, we've kind of grown up together," said Dan Kunz, father of Thomas and Stella.
The two parishes were first told in the fall the merger would happen for the 2017-18 school year. The diocese had to move quickly, because enrollment rates are down and parish finances aren't what they used to be.
"The schools have history, you can't forget that. And you have to celebrate the history of the schools. But going forward, if Catholic schools can continue, we have to look for a new way of doing it," said Fr. Nick Vaskov, executive director of communications for the diocese.
The diocese began the mergers in the North Hills area. Seven schools are now a shared ministry of all 32 parishes. Primary complaints about the move from parents included the slow release of information by the diocese, and that suggestions given during listening sessions weren't always used.
"The people that were running (the listening sessions), they did listen to what had to be said from the people that were there, but at the same time I would say that I think some of the decisions were already made previously, and they just kind of wanted to get some feedback," said Elizabeth Kunz.
"(We want) to listen to the needs of parents and teachers and everyone involved and see what's our best path forward for this unique situation because it's not cookie-cutter. We can't say what worked there is going to work here," Vaskov said.
The next school restructuring will come in the city of Pittsburgh and the eastern suburbs.