Parents were sent letters notifying them of the planned closure of the St. Germaine Catholic School in St. Clair Shores at the end of the 2023-24 school year on Jan. 16.

Parents were sent letters notifying them of the planned closure of the St. Germaine Catholic School in St. Clair Shores at the end of the 2023-24 school year on Jan. 16.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

Plan calls for St. Germaine school to close this year

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 18, 2024


ST. CLAIR SHORES — According to letters sent to parents, St. Germaine Catholic School in St. Clair Shores is scheduled to close at the end of this school year. The school has been in the community for 60 years.

School Principal Colleen Maciejewski and the Rev. Joe Barron of the St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church, whose oversight was extended to include St. Germaine when the Rev. Jim Bjorum died late last year, sent separate letters detailing the decision.

Barron said in his letter, sent on Jan. 16, that the school near Martin Road and Little Mack Avenue has been running at a deficit of around $150,000 for many years.

“Our Lady of Hope Parish has been subsidizing the deficit, which has until now been possible, in part through the use of funds from the proceeds of the sale of the St. Gertrude Campus,” Barron said. “These funds have now run out.”

Barron said the other part of the subsidy was taken from the regular operating budget of the parish “often in lieu of paying other bills.”

Efforts were made to lower this deficit over the years “including low salaries for teachers, fundraisers for textbooks and supplies, etc.” Barron said in the letter.

“While these efforts are commendable, it is simply not enough to financially sustain the school after the conclusion of this school year,” Barron said.

In the letter, Barron said this information was presented to the finance council and after much discussion, they decided to proceed with the closure of the school.

“Please know this was an incredibly difficult and painful decision,” Barron said in the letter. “I shared this recommendation with the priests in solidum in the Gaudium et Specs Family of Parishes, as well as Archbishop Vigneron and the College of Consultors, who ultimately accepted it.”

Maciejewski stated in her letter, sent on Jan. 16, the decision was unexpected, and she expressed “profound sadness and deep regret.”

“As a tight-knit community, we are bound together by our shared commitment to providing an exceptional education rooted in faith and values,” Maciejewski said in the letter.

“Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control have resulted in the difficult decision to close St. Germaine Catholic School at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.”

She also said they regret the disruption and distress the news may cause for the parents, the children and the staff.

“Our primary concern is for the well-being and future educational opportunities for our students,” Maciejewski said.

She invited parents to speak with their students about the news before they heard about it from classmates the next day, on Jan. 17.

Holly Fournier, associate communications director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said in an email they are declining interviews at this time “to allow the community a chance to privately adjust to the difficult news.”

“The school is committed to finishing the year strong and supporting its students and their families through the transition,” Fournier said.

James Harder, a St. Germaine Catholic School parent, said parents were informed of the decision on Jan. 16 and a meeting was held with the Archdiocese of Detroit Department of Catholic Schools and the Finance Department on Jan. 17. He said the principal was even gobsmacked.

“St. Germaine had a financial council that no one was aware of,” Harder said. “I guess they were put into place by our late priest, Father Jim, many years ago. Come to find out though they haven’t been meeting for many years.”

Harder, his wife and his mother-in-law went to the meeting along with other parents, staff and guests. Harder said the members of the council served in non-elected positions and that the people on the council were parishioners at the church who had nothing to do with the school.

“I guess there was a meeting with the financial council, and they found that there was a deficit with the school and their recommendation was to close the school,” Harder said. “They didn’t bring it to the school, they didn’t bring it to the parents, they didn’t bring it to the principal — they just made a unilateral decision that they were going to close the school.”

Harder said the parents and others offered solutions to the financial issue such as raising tuition and teachers not taking pay increases. He said the man they met with would not give straight answers in terms of how much the deficit was, how much tuition would have to be raised in order to fix the problem and other things. He said the amount of the deficit fluctuated from $150,000 to $300,000 in their discussions that night.

“Someone mentioned that they would be willing to raise tuition. All the parents agreed,” Harder said. “He said, ‘Well, you’d have to raise it 25%,’ and then he said, ‘We’d have to raise it 50%,’ and he said, ‘We’d have to double it.’ So there was, like, no viable numbers given.”

Harder said the community is tight-knit and that the school’s families were willing to fundraise and put in the effort. He also mentioned that enrollment was up.

“I don’t see a reason to not do some problem-solving measures and just jump right to closure,” Harder said.

Harder also said they handcuffed the parents because enrollment starts in February.

“We’re stuck either trying to save our school or we’re stuck looking for a new school,” Harder said. “It’s hard to do both at the same time and I think that’s why the announcement was made so late.”

Both Maciejewski and Barron stated in their letters they would assist families in finding other Catholic school options within the Archdiocese of Detroit for the next school year.

Harder said they’d like the archdiocese to give them a chance and a year.

“We’re willing to put in the work, we’re willing to raise the money, we’re willing to raise the increased tuition,” Harder said. “We’re willing to do what we have to do to keep this school afloat because it’s a good school.”

St. Germaine Catholic School has 163 students enrolled in preschool through eighth grade, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available and follow the St. Clair Shores Sentinel on