By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — St. Sebastian Catholic School, 3997 Merrick St., plans to close in June as a result of declining enrollment, a change in neighborhood demographics and operational cost challenges.
“It brings me great sadness to inform you that after considerable thought, discussion and prayer, parish leadership has decided to close St. Sebastian Catholic School in June 2019,” St. Sebastian Catholic Church Pastor the Rev. Walter Ptak said in a March 13 letter to the congregation. “This decision was made in consultation with the parish’s consultative bodies, pastors from our vicarage, the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Detroit and the office of Catholic Schools.
“Closing a paris school is never easy, but after reviewing enrollment and demographic trends, parishes and schools that are nearby, our parish and school finances and other data to assess the viability of the school, I fully believe that this is the best decision for the continuing health of our parish community.”
The school has 25 pre-kindergarten students and 96 first- through eighth-grade students, but only 50 students were pre-registered for the upcoming school year, according to the Detroit News.
The school’s website said that children from Dearborn Heights, Dearborn, Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Taylor, Wyandotte, Belleville, Brownstown Township, Canton Township, Detroit, Inkster and Westland attend St. Sebastian Catholic School.
Area schools were invited to St. Sebastian March 26 to present information to students and parents impacted by the closing.
Ptak wrote in a March 24 bulletin that the school closing announcement was difficult for everyone involved.
“It was an announcement that no one wanted to hear but one that has been looming for the past 10 years or so as the enrollment has been declining and the cost to run our school has dramatically increased,” Ptak said. “All of our parishioners should have received a detailed letter from me along with the letter that went to all our school families.”
Ptak also emphasized in the bulletin that the church was not closing, the Faith Formation Program will continue and a Parish Festival will take place as planned.
St. Sebastian Catholic Church was founded in 1949 with the Rev. Edmund Dommer as the first pastor with plans for building a school as well, according to the school’s website.
“A converted portable classroom was used as a temporary church,” the website read. “This structure was then used as a credit union after the church was built. In 1950, three Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph from Hamburg, N.Y., arrived to begin conducting religious education classes until a school could be built.”
In November 1951, the St. Sebastian Catholic School building was completed and registrations began before the school opened in September 1952. When the school opened, 378 students were enrolled in first through sixth grades.
The following year seventh grade was added and eighth grade in 1954. St. Sebastian Catholic School’s first class graduated in June 1955 with a total of 42 students.
In 2016, the school celebrated its 60th anniversary.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])