Parents of students at St. Ambrose Elementary School in Schuylkill Haven aren’t thrilled with the idea of the school closing.
Specifically, the idea of sending their children to Assumption BVM in Pottsville isn’t sitting well.
Remember, just a few days ago, St. Ambrose parents were notified via email that the Diocese of Allentown was closing the school at the end of the term. They were invited to attend another regional Catholic school next year and given grant access to help cover some of the tuition costs for the next two years.
But their choices are increasingly limited. In the last 20 years, numerous local Catholic schools have closed their doors. Even Assumption BVM in Pottsville is the result of at least a half-dozen other schools closing.
The problem St. Ambrose parents have isn’t the trend of consolidating schools — as troubling as it may be — it’s Assumption BVM, itself.
Letter from St. Ambrose Parents to Assumption BVM Parents
In a letter obtained Tuesday by Coal Region Canary, two families are speaking up in defense of keeping St. Ambrose in Haven open. They say the school is in much better condition than Assumption and in a better school environment. So, rather than closing St. Ambrose and consolidating in Pottsville, why not make St. Ambrose the regional school?
In short, this is what they write to fellow St. Ambrose parents prefacing a letter to Assumption BVM parents:
Dear St. Ambrose Parents and Teachers,
We were devastated by Monsignor’s announcement of the intention to close St. Ambrose School and are having great difficulty accepting it as the best course of action for our children. We have discovered that discussions intended to be had by Monsignor Zemanik with the leadership of Assumption BVM regarding merging the two schools were refused by the Council of Pastors of Assumption BVM. As members of the same community, we have had encounters with parents of Assumption BVM students and have heard their concerns about major maintenance issues and also safety concerns in the environment surrounding Assumption BVM. Those same parents have mentioned the superior facility and environment at St. Ambrose School. Perhaps like us, you share these safety concerns, particularly in contrast to the very safe environment to which we have become accustomed at St. Ambrose. We have all made sacrifices to send our children to St. Ambrose for the very special place that it is and the education provided. Sadly, we are all aware of the decreased enrollment in recent years and a merge with Assumption may be necessary, but the St. Ambrose facilities are most definitely preferable.
We are attempting to reach out to Assumption BVM parents via a letter to this effect. The hope is that if there are enough parents who share our desire to give their children a high quality Catholic education in a loving and safe environment, that they will express their support to the Council of Pastors to reconsider meeting with Monsignor to reach a mutually beneficial solution. We have attached that letter to this e-mail and ask that you forward to any Assumption BVM parents you may know or anyone else with an investment in Catholic education in Schuylkill County. We also encourage you to express any additional concerns to the school administration (email@example.com) or reply to this e-mail.
We ask for your support in any discussions with Assumption BVM parents and for your continued prayers.
David and Margaret Young
Joseph and Angela Zawisza
You can read the full letter directed to Assumption BVM parents here: FULL LETTER
St. Ambrose vs. Assumption BVM
It doesn’t take much to see the stark contrasts between the schools and campuses around each of these schools.
Assumption BVM is on Howard Avenue in Pottsville. But not that part of Howard Avenue.
It’s situated in the Bunker Hill section of Pottsville, just west of Yuengling Brewery. The area has seen better days, for sure. And within just a few blocks, is the scene of the recent police-involved shooting incident on Mahantongo Street.
Also, access to the school is difficult on a good day. While Howard Avenue in Yorkville is about a mile wide (exaggerating for effect), the street is much narrower by the school.
At St. Ambrose, it’s a night-and-day difference.
The school is tucked away behind the Avenues in Schuylkill Haven. Across the street from the driveway leading up to the St. Ambrose church and campus is the Schuylkill Haven Little League Field and Schuylkill Haven Area School District buildings.
As far as the buildings are concerned, the St. Ambrose parents say their school is in much better condition than Assumption in Pottsville. They believe they’ll be faced with maintenance issues related to the condition at Assumption in the near future.
Photo: Coal Region Canary
May 1, 2019 at 7:26 am
Seems to me that this is more of a ploy written by select parents and, I’ll assume, administration at St Ambrose clawing for a job.
Thought Catholics are taught not to throw stones?
May 1, 2019 at 8:41 am
No one is throwing stones! It’s stating facts. We talk about safety of our kids, but yet they want us to send our kids into an area which is having issues.
May 1, 2019 at 9:28 am
No one is throwing stones. If we are going to have one Catholic Elementary School in the county, there are better options. The schools are night and day. One school is up to date – the other is in a terrible location and needs a lot of updating. This decision has not been made with the childrens best interest in mind. This decision is solely based on money, politics and greed.
A lifelong Catholic
May 1, 2019 at 11:48 am
Sounds typical of the Catholic Church. Never in the best interest of children.
May 1, 2019 at 6:05 pm
What is the council of churches trying to hide that they won’t even consider it? Seems a little fishy to me. Who has pull that they want to keep hush hush??
Concerned St. Ambrose mom
May 4, 2019 at 5:34 pm
My son and I went to the Assumption BVM Open House so he could see where he’s going next year since the St. Ambrose decision. The staff/teachers at Assumption BVM we’re very welcoming and wonderful to us, however, the school building itself is something else along with the area it’s located. I saw a old outdated school wondering if something happened would the kids be safe but on the other side saw a warm and caring Assumption family. St. Ambrose school would be better for all the kids as far as their safety, etc.
May 1, 2019 at 8:53 am
I myself have attended both and my children have attended both schools. It’s not about the building, it’s about the culture and atmosphere of the schools that are far more different then the stones of the building or a narrowing of a street. Assumption has always treated my family with dignity and respect, and sadly, I cannot say the same for St. Ambrose. I made the move several years ago and many families followed. Leadership needs to be invested in the youth, and that lack of leadership and adaptability to change is the direct result of the current situation. “Looks aren’t everything.”
May 1, 2019 at 9:23 am
Father Stone was the death knell for St. Ambrose School. He loathed its very existence, whining all the time aboub how it was draining revenue from the parish. He increased tuition significantly more than Assumption, and the exodus began, just as he desired. Stoney finally got his wish, but about 7 years later than he hoped.
May 1, 2019 at 11:28 am
Pio speaks the truth. Best day for St. Ambrose was when Stone left. Sadly the damage is done, and lasting.
May 1, 2019 at 1:20 pm
The reason St Ambrose enrollment has declined is upper grade teachers (4-8) being inexperienced and unwilling to change. The faculty at Assumption is top notch! The best case would include the best of both schools-teachers and faculty from Assumptions and facility and location of St Ambrose. Anything else would not be in the best interest of the students.
May 1, 2019 at 3:48 pm
good luck with that… same thing happened with Brennan and Nativity/Marian. Brennan had a much nicer campus & athletic fields plus 2 gymnasiums compared to Nativity & Marian. No brainer that Brennan was the nicest Catholic school/campus in the county. Diocese doesn’t care.
My two cents
May 1, 2019 at 4:54 pm
Well if you want your kid to be spoon fed and not have to take any accountability for anything..send them to assumption. If you want your kid taught how to take accountability and respect for others. Send them to saint Ambrose. I’ve been witnessing this for years..st. Ambrose is light years ahead of assumption. Sorry folks mommy and daddy can’t keep throwing around how much they make to help you succeed in life. also, if assumption is SO nice why aren’t teachers’ kids going there. Some of them are in public school? Hmmm
May 1, 2019 at 7:02 pm
First of all, it’s not a merger, it’s a closure. Big difference, especially to me when my two little ones were forced into another Catholic School when St. Stephens closed and merged with All Saints. The St. Ambrose parents should be grateful it’s not a merger. I certainly could have used the extra $3000 in transfer grants…. Additionally, I,like most of you was angry, upset and skeptical with ABVM but as a Mom of two high school students now at Nativity, Assumption was the best choice I could have made for my kids. It’s not about location! It’s the feeling you get when you walk in that building, it’s truly a family. The faculty and staff not only educate but they care and treat your kids like family. I’m sorry for those families of St. Ambrose dealing with this closure but don’t rule out the amazing teachers and staff because of location.
May 1, 2019 at 10:27 pm
Location is certainly the key thing and it has nothing to do with buildings. Assumption houses students from the Northern churches (Shenandoah and Frackville areas). Busing is provided for these children as is required by law because it is within the prescribed distance. If the school were to move to St. Ambrose, buses would not be provided as they would then be outside of 10 miles of their school district’s border. There is much more to consider than just whose building is newer but safety when transporting your children. St. Ambrose would be much farther for everyone.