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The only black Catholic elementary school in city in danger of closing

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Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, the oldest African American Elementary Catholic School in Birmingham, is in danger of closing. The school is in the process of raising around $150,000 to keep the facility in operation for the 2017-2018 school year. (ABC 33/40)

By Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, the oldest African American Elementary Catholic School in Birmingham, is in danger of closing. The school is in the process of raising around $150,000 to keep the facility in operation for the 2017-2018 school year. (ABC 33/40)
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, the oldest African American Elementary Catholic School in Birmingham, is in danger of closing. The school is in the process of raising around $150,000 to keep the facility in operation for the 2017-2018 school year. (ABC 33/40)

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, the oldest — and only — African American Elementary Catholic School in Birmingham, is in danger of closing.

The school has been in Birmingham for 111 years and has become a part of the city’s identity.

Our Lady of Fatima principal, Al Logan, said the school is in the process of raising around $150,000 to keep the facility in operation for the 2017-2018 school year.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” he said, adding that the school in Titusville has support not just locally but from surrounding areas.

“I’ve gotten calls…from as far away as Indiana, Miami, and of course the southern part of Alabama,” he said. “With the support of everyone who’s interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we’ll find a way to keep the school open.”

Logan pointed to support after a recent ABC 33/40 newscast and backing from parents of the students.

“The parents are really for [the fundraiser],” he said. “…[T]he parents are saying they want to be here. This is where they want to be. This is where they want their kids.”

Catholic and private schools nationwide are facing challenges when it comes to student population.

“What’s happened over the years [is that] we’ve seen a decline in enrollment,” said Logan. “That’s not only Fatima, but all private sectors because of the way our economics are going. …It’s just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don’t think it has personally anything to do with Catholic [schools] or non-Catholic [schools]; it just happens.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of all elementary and secondary students in private schools has decreased from 12 percent in the 1995-96 school year to 10 percent in the 2013-14 school year.

Catholic schools have seen a 10-year decline in enrollment since 2006, with 1,064 schools either closed or consolidated, according to the National Catholic Education Association.

Logan said Our Lady of Fatima has 11 percent of Catholic students, with 89 percent non-Catholic. “It’s looked at as a community school,” he said. “We are a Christian school as well, and we do teach Christ-like ways.”

It’s the spiritual teaching that has most helped the students, Logan said. But for that to continue the school needs help from the Birmingham community, he said.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate and likewise, anyone who would like to [donate] from any city or location in the country,” he said.

Those interested in helping can make donations to:

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, 630 1st St. S., Birmingham, AL 35205 or call 205-251-8395.

ABC 33/40, The Atlantic and USA Today contributed to this story.