Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, a different Catholic school will occupy the building at 660 Julian St. that is currently home to Presentation of Our Lady School.
At Masses last weekend, Father Edward Poehlmann, pastor of Presentation of Our Lady Parish, announced that—after consulting with the parish finance and pastoral councils and leadership of the Archdiocese of Denver—he has opted to close the parish school and lease the space to Escuela de Guadalupe, an independent Catholic school with a dual-language program.
In a letter to the parish and school community, Archbishop Samuel Aquila stated while it is a difficult decision to close the school, he is in favor of the new direction taken by Father Poehlmann.
“Presentation of Our Lady School has served the community of west Denver well for 90 years, thanks in no small part to the sacrifice and hard work of the Sisters of Mercy,” the archbishop wrote of the school founded in 1924. “The school has struggled in the past few years, unable to adjust to the changing demographics of the area, but this in no way diminishes the great work it has accomplished in the lives of generations of students.”
At its height in the 1960s, Presentation served nearly 500 students in west Denver’s Villa Park and Barnum neighborhoods. This year, enrollment stands at 97 students.
“The last 13 years have been a fragile time for Presentation School,” according to a statement from the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools, indicating enrollment has averaged 119 in that timeframe. “Consequently, (the parish) has provided substantial funding to school operations, an unsustainable situation for the parish. Despite every effort to build enrollment, make tuition affordable, and raise funds, the recurring and ongoing struggle to make the school viable has taken its toll.”
In the last decade, more than $3.6 million has been invested by Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado and the archdiocese.
“A decision regarding the closure of a school is taken very seriously and is not a reaction to isolated or recent events,” the statement read. “It is a lengthy, prayerful, process, inclusive of numerous factors and individuals.”
Father Poehlmann welcomed the lease agreement with Escuela de Guadalupe as a way to help the community look beyond the closure.
“Naturally there is some sadness for us as we close Presentation of Our Lady School,” he said. “But we are looking forward to welcoming the Escuela program to our parish.”
Escuela de Guadalupe was founded in north Denver in 1999. It is governed by an independent board of trustees that monitors the school, including ensuring that it is financially accessible to modest- and low-income families. It serves a diverse student body from across the Denver Metro area, and students emerge with full academic literacy in both English and Spanish.
Now educating students from kindergarten through fifth grade, Escuela plans to expand to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade by fall 2018—with a goal of serving 240 students.
A plan has been developed by the Office of Catholic Schools to help facilitate the transition of Presentation students and teachers. For the next school year, current students will be offered enrollment priority and tuition assistance at other archdiocesan schools. Also, students who meet the admission criteria for Escuela de Guadalupe will have the opportunity to apply there.
For more information, the Presentation community is invited to a meeting and Q-and-A session 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at Presentation School. Funding organizations will be available to address tuition assistance needs.