St. Barnabas Catholic School will cut numerous grade levels next year due to pandemic

Financial strain for private schools

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - St. Barnabas Catholic School in Birmingham will have to cut some grade levels next year, citing financial concerns because of COVID.

Leaders say they hope to keep the “First Class Pre-K” program offered, but will have to cut kindergarten through eighth grade, which will impact roughly 100 students.

Leaders shared the letter sent to parents and students with WBRC. It says the reasons for restructuring comes down to money.

The school was already operating about 30 students below enrollment level, which impacted the operating budget. Also, they haven’t been able to do any fundraising with school closed.

State education leaders fear it's not the first school that will have to make that tough decision.

“Since March 13 we saw the potential threat to the non-public schools and it’s certainly something,” said Michael Mclendon, Executive Director of Alabama Independent School Association.

Leaders with the Alabama Independent School Association say private schools are typically in the enrollment process right now, which dictates next year’s budget.

“Primary threat will be the extended economic impact on parents out of work and if they will be able to enroll in school next year,” said McLendon.

Private schools saw about a 10 percent drop in enrollment following the 2008 recession and depending on how quickly the economy bounces back we could see a similar impact.

“Previous school year in the recession, we did see some schools had to close,” said McLendon, “A lot of schools operate under tight budgets and have modest tuition.”

St. Barnabas leaders say they are still in the process of determining if the state will continue to fund the Pre-k program and expect to make a final decision about that program soon.

In the meantime, school leaders say they’re working to place students and teachers in the upper grades at new schools.

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.