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Two Omaha schools to merge; recently purchased property to be sold, archdiocese announces

Blessed Sacrament and St. Philip Neri schools in Omaha will become one starting with the 2011-2012 school year, according to an announcement made March 25 by the Archdiocese of Omaha.

The archdiocese also announced that St. Peter Claver Cristo Rey Catholic High School's plan to move to property purchased last year has been put on hold, and that an advisory committee has been formed to assist with planning at Holy Name School. Both schools are in Omaha.

The decisions came as part of an annual review of the archdiocesan Catholic schools. Archbishop George J. Lucas made the decision in consultation with Msgr. James Gilg, superintendent of Catholic schools, and other archdiocesan officials. The CORE Board, which provides direction for Omaha's inner-city Catholic schools, also provided input and assistance.

Merger is 'an opportunity'

The merger means Blessed Sacrament, 6316 N. 30th St., will close the end of the 2011-2012 school year. Students will be invited to attend St. Philip Neri, 8202 N. 31st St., which is less than two miles away.

Currently 142 students, including those in the preschool and pre-kindergarten program, are enrolled at Blessed Sacrament. St. Philip Neri has 177 enrolled this school year in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The combined school will serve students from Miller Park to the south as far north as Ponca Hills along N. 30th St.

"This is an opportunity for all of us to build new bonds around something we believe in," Father Craig Loecker, pastor of both parishes, said in a press release. "Together these two communities will build a solid foundation for Catholic education along N. 30th St."

Archdiocesan officials hope that by giving teachers, parent and students a transition year, they will have adequate time to prepare for the change, according to the statement.

During the upcoming transition year (2010-2011), the two schools will operate with a single principal, Robert Laird, currently principal of Blessed Sacrament, and a single administrative office. Richard Cuva, principal at St. Philip Neri, plans to retire at the end of the current school year.

Blessed Sacrament Parish will continue to support the students currently attending the school with scholarships for them to attend St. Philip Neri.

Selling of property

Archdiocesan officials determined St. Peter Claver should remain at its current location, 5301 St. 36th St., until expansion makes better economic sense, the release said.

The property at 5051 L St., recently purchased by the school for the new site, will be sold with proceeds used to help support the school.

Student enrollment continues to increase, but the current economy has presented challenges in recruiting new businesses to provide paid student jobs. With 230 students projected for the 2010-2011 school year, the school is expanding its Hire4Ed jobs program.

Father James Keiter, president of the school, said initial efforts have been successful.

"We've increased our student job bank by 30 percent, and that's great news," he said. "Student internships are key to the Cristo Rey model in preparing young people for success in life."

Under the direction of the school's new operations officer, the Hire4Ed jobs program is actively recruiting more local businesses. Omaha businesses interested in offering student internships are encouraged to contact Peg Brennan Peterson, Hire4Ed and the school's operations officer, at 734-1802 or pbpeterson@spccristorey.org.


Committee formed

While Holy Name School in Omaha announced last month that it will remain open next year, it continues to develop a long-term strategic plan.

The new Holy Name Committee will advise the school on operations, business management and fundraising. Intensive fundraising efforts are ongoing, and interested donors can visit www.helpholyname.org.

As of March 25, the school had raised $149,151.

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