St. Mary Catholic School to close permanently

The St. Mary Catholic Elementary School in Hillsboro will permanently close its doors after 23 years of operation following this school year because of a lack of enrollment.

“I blame COVID on all this because we have a great school and top-notch teachers and quality education, but our revenues dropped by 50 percent and our expenses raised by 40 percent,” said Fr. Mike Paraniuk of Hillsboro’s St. Mary Catholic Church. “I had to radically increase the teacher pay to get teachers, and you cannot be solvent if your expenses go up 40 percent and your revenue drops by 50 percent.”

Paraniuk said the school would need 34 students to be enrolled for the school to be viable, but it has a current enrollment of just 17 students. “It ate up all the savings of the church, and sadly we just don’t have the revenue to keep going,” he said.

The local parish council voted unanimously to recommend the closure, and Paraniuk received permission for the closure from his archbishop in February.

Paraniuk recommended the St. Louis School in Owensville for local residents seeking a Catholic parochial elementary school.

“My feeling is, even though the school building closes, the values we taught our children will live for many, many years,” said Paraniuk.

He said he is proud of what the school has achieved for its students during its years of service. “We gave them a very good spiritual, religious education, and we taught them the values of hard work, being responsible and truly getting along with other people and being able to be a productive member of society,” he said.

According to Paraniuk, the school’s fundraising was successful, but dwindling enrollment forced the closure.

“The St. Mary parishioners have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over 23 years,” said Paraniuk. “In the beginning they said that the school would never last, and due to the generosity of our parishioners, we kept it open for 23 years.”

Paraniuk said the local Little Patch of Heaven Preschool will remain open. “In fact, we are looking to expand it,” he said.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.