More than 60 parents and students filed into Redemptorist High School on a dreary Tuesday morning looking for answers about why their school was closing and if they could save it.
An hour and a half after they met with Bishop Robert Muench and other officials, most said they were still just as uncertain about why Redemptorist High School and the junior high are closing, and where students attending there now will go instead. Muench delivered the news of the closure late last week after students started their winter break.
Since then, a number of “Save Redemptorist” campaigns and war cries have sprung up, but diocese spokespeople have said the decision to close the small school in north Baton Rouge is final. Redemptorist has been hurt by low enrollment numbers, which have ticked down since the year 2000. Officials were expecting fewer than 150 students next year.
The diocese offered the meeting for parents and students to have a more personal form of closure and way to ask questions, spokeswoman Donna Carville said. The meeting was closed to the media.
But as many parents and students decked out in their green school colors walked out of the Redemptorist library, they said their questions had been far from answered.
“It was very heated, very emotional,” said Judy Brown, parent of a Redemptorist senior and sophomore. She said she’s especially worried about her sophomore, who will have to transfer schools.
Estelle Mellion, the grandmother of a student, echoed that worry. She said she sent her grandson to Redemptorist because she wanted him to be in a safe setting with good teachers. Now, she said, she does not know where else he could go that would offer the same learning environment as Redemptorist.
One student, Sean Hotard, left the meeting about halfway through and sat on a covered gray bench outside the school as the rain drizzled down. He said administrators in the meeting were barely answering questions and simply writing down complaints.
“The parents are furious and the students are just broken,” he said. “… I couldn’t stand to look at my classmates cry.”
Alumni also met with school officials after the parent meeting, though the bishop had already left. Lawrence Robillard, president of the Redemptorist Alumni Board, said he worries about who will keep the Redemptorist traditions alive once the school closes.
Robillard said the Alumni Board has always struggled without major financial backers, calling Redemptorist a blue-collar school. But he said he plans to use the board’s remaining money to give students the best possible send-off, and he wants to throw a party for the whole school.
He said the school could use some Christmas magic, a thought echoed by a lime green poster hanging outside of the school. Written on it: “Miracle on St. Gerard St.”