[StBernard] Catholic elementary to open in Chalmette

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Jan 24 08:02:20 EST 2006

Catholic elementary to open in Chalmette
Start date for classes remains uncertain
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
By Karen Turni Bazile
St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau
Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina swamped St. Bernard Parish, a
Catholic elementary school will soon open its doors in Chalmette, the
Archdiocese of New Orleans said Monday.

The Rev. William Maestri, schools superintendent for the archdiocese, said
the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, to be called Our Lady of
Prompt Succor Central Catholic School, would start off on a small scale. But
he said he expects the school to grow with the community's returning
population, and he hopes to offer a summer program as well.

The school will be housed at the site of Our Lady of Prompt Succor school,
which sustained the least damage of the five Catholic schools in St. Bernard

St. Bernard Parish has long had a history of strong enrollment in Catholic
and nonpublic schools. A 2003 Census Bureau analysis, for instance, showed
that almost three in 10 St. Bernard Parish children in first through 12
grades attended private schools or were home-schooled -- more than all but
nine other parishes or counties in the U.S. (Jefferson Parish ranked second;
St. John the Baptist, fifth.)

For the 2004-05 school year, more than 2,000 students attended St. Bernard
Parish's five Catholic schools, while public school enrollment was around
9,000 students.

Archdiocese officials couldn't give a definite start date for the school
because they are depending on contractors to complete the cleanup and
renovation. Associate Superintendent Nancy Baird said a tentative
registration date will be Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Our Lady of
Prompt Succor rectory on Paris Road.

"This is a happy day for the archdiocese," Maestri said at a midmorning news
conference with the Rev. Danialo "Danny" C. Digal, Prompt Succor's pastor.
"Catholic education has returned to St. Bernard Parish. We think this is a
significant step."

Sharon Coll, principal at St. Mark in St. Bernard Parish before the
hurricane, will head the school, Maestri said.

Workers have gutted the school, which had a little more than 3 feet of
water. The first building to reopen will be one of the main classroom
buildings, made of concrete blocks, that has been completely stripped of its
wood cabinets and tile floors, said Tony Fernandez, lay chairman of the
church's pastoral council, which is helping to oversee the cleanup and
renovation. Fernandez said some evidence of oil was found on a confined
portion of the property, but the area can be roped off from students until
it can be addressed.

Coll, a longtime resident of St. Bernard Parish, said she is happy to be
home and expects to be living soon in a FEMA trailer on her property in

Coll said her goal is to hire the best teachers of those who taught at all
four Catholic elementary schools.

Parents of Catholic school students can get more information by calling the
temporary office of the Archdiocese Office of Catholic Schools at De La
Salle High School at 891-7993. Registration information will be available
online as well at www.archdiocese-no.org

. . . . . . .

Karen Turni Bazile can be reached at kturni at timespicayune.com or (504)

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