Sacred Heart elementary school in Allentown, struck by a devastating fire on June 10 that forced students and teachers to move to a temporary building for this school year, will not be rebuilt.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for all involved,” said Dr. Brooke Tesché, Chancellor of Catholic Education. “However, it provides the best opportunity for the future of Catholic education in the City of Allentown.”
Part of the transition plan for the school includes using insurance proceeds to establish a $1-million scholarship endowment for students from Sacred Heart Parish to help defray their tuition costs for Catholic education.
Dr. Tesché said the school’s operating costs were creating an increasing burden on Sacred Heart Parish. Also contributing to the decision not to rebuild, she said, was a review of enrollment trends and projections at Catholic schools in the city.
Sacred Heart students will continue in their temporary school building, at St. Paul Parish on Susquehanna Street, for the rest of this transitional year. They began classes last week.
For the 2021-22 school year, students will attend the nearby St. John Vianney Regional School on North 18th Street. There will be various activities to welcome Sacred Heart students and families over the next year.
A Pre-K Program is expected to remain in operation elsewhere on the Sacred Heart campus for the 2021-22 school year.
St. John Vianney already is a diverse elementary school that participates in the Latino Enrollment Initiative, which is designed to increase the educational success of Hispanic children by increasing investment in quality learning and by expanding participation in the life of the parish community.
In addition to the $1 million scholarship endowment, Sacred Heart Parish will use additional proceeds from the insurance settlement to demolish the fire-ravaged school building, and to do utility work required to separate the school’s infrastructure from that of other nearby buildings.
“I know that this decision will be disappointing for students and parents at the school, and for the many proud alumni of Sacred Heart School,” said Dr. Tesché. She said a determination on the future of the school needed to be made in a timely manner because of the present condition of the 115-year-old building following the fire.
The decision came after the Council of Priests, an advisory body of experienced clergy from around the Diocese, and the Diocesan Board of Education each independently reviewed the impact that the rebuilding would have had upon the parish and school. Each advisory body made a recommendation to Bishop Alfred Schlert not to rebuild. He accepted their recommendations.
“Despite this tragic fire, I am confident that the needs of families for a quality, Catholic education in the City of Allentown will be preserved for many years to come,” Bishop Schlert said.