St. Leo the Great Catholic School will close permanently at the end of the school year.
St. Leo the Great Catholic School will close permanently at the end of the school year. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With less than two weeks notice, St. Leo the Great Catholic School announced to parents and students it will close permanently at the end of the school year that concludes on June 1.

The school, located near Mission Concepción, cited financial challenges and declining enrollment as reasons for its closure.

Enrollment had been steady for a number of years, but began to decline recently, according to a press release issued by the Archdiocese of San Antonio. St. Leo, which serves students in grades pre-K through eight, enrolled 115 students last year.

“Combined with that challenge, economic uncertainties, changing demographics of the area, and a shifting educational landscape, it became impossible for the pastor, principal, staff, and parish community to overcome these difficulties,” the release states.

The National Catholic Educational Association reported that in 2017-18, 110 Catholic schools closed or consolidated and 16 new ones opened.

Catholic school enrollment has been on a downward trend across the nation, especially in elementary schools. Since 2008, elementary enrollment decreased by 27.5 percent in 12 urban dioceses.

In 2012, two other San Antonio Catholic schools closed: St. Philip of Jesus Catholic School and St. Cecilia Catholic School.

There are 38 Catholic schools in San Antonio, with a total enrollment of about 10,000 students.

On June 12, St. Leo plans to hold a school fair for families to learn about other Catholic school options in the San Antonio area. Representatives with the Archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Department said they will work with displaced teachers and staff to find jobs in other Catholic schools nearby.

“The lives of thousands have been enriched by the fine education students have received at St. Leo the Great Catholic School for decades, and we want to honor and cherish that precious legacy,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a prepared statement. “Many graduates have become leaders in our community and region, and we have tremendous respect for the teachers and staff who did outstanding work in passing on the faith through Catholic education.”

John Boggess, who owns his own communications company and previously served as the communications director at San Antonio Water System, said he and his three siblings all attended St. Leo. He told the Rivard Report he graduated in 1971 and has many fond memories of his time there.

“It was sad to hear the announcement about a closing,” Boggess said. “I know things had been up and down for the last several years.”

When Boggess’ son went to Blessed Sacrament School, he sat on the board and became familiar with the challenge of balancing tuition at a private school with making a quality Catholic education available. He said he knows what St. Leo is dealing with and it is “tough to see the school close.”

Marti West, the Archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic Schools, described the St. Leo’s closure as “difficult and heartbreaking.”

St. Leo traces its origins back to 1914 when land was first donated to build a campus. The school’s first building was dedicated in 1920 at its current location, 119 Octavia Pl.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.