Diocese of Columbus to close Sts. Peter and Paul School

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:36 PM EST
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WELLSTON, Ohio (WSAZ) - Students have walked the halls at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wellston since 1908. Last week, parents received a letter notifying them that the school would close following the 2022-2023 school year.

“My first thought and impression in general ... I was heartbroken,” said Kennedi Kovaleski.

Kovaleski’s son is 4 years old and attends Sts. Peter and Paul. The school currently teaches students at the Pre-K level all the way through the eighth grade.

“I sat and I cried along with many other parents. We cried and then we started talking to each other; what can we do?” Kovaleski said.

Many in the Wellston community are not ready to give up their beloved Catholic school. The Diocese of Columbus declined our request for an on-camera interview on Tuesday, but shared a copy of the letter that was sent to parents from Fr. Thomas Herge.

Dear Sts. Peter and Paul School Families,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that Sts. Peter and Paul School will be permanently closing at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. The school has served generations of families in Wellston since its founding in 1907, playing an important role in the history of our community. Sadly, the projected enrollment and expenses are not sufficient to justify operation. Our last day of school on May 26 will be the last day of operation for our school.

While I know this news is hard to comprehend, it is the most prudent decision for the parishes in Jackson County. Evaluation and study have made it clear that our parish is no longer able to continue to operate a school. This very difficult decision has been made with the approval of Bishop Fernandes and the guidance of the Office of Catholic Schools.

The Office of Catholic Schools will soon be providing information to all of you about enrollment possibilities at the other Catholic schools in our region, including Bishop Flaget in Chillicothe and St. John the Evangelist in Logan. I know that these options might not be convenient for all of our families, but please know that these communities will welcome you with open arms and work with you to create a smooth transition. Families with Ed Choice will easily be able to transfer their scholarships to another school.

To Sts. Peter and Paul parishioners: Sts. Peter and Paul School has been a rich part of our parish’s history. We should take great pride in the good it has brought to our families and beyond. But this is not the end for us. Now is the time to remember with gratitude all we have been able to do and to work together as a parish community to chart the course for our future. Our mission remains the same: to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of Jackson County. May we learn from the Lord new ways of fulfilling this mission.

Jeff Plummer, who served as the school’s principal more than a decade ago, says that the issues of enrollment and finances are not new.

“We had the same problems. We had low attendance, we had difficulty getting fundraisers. But you know what? This community cares and they’ll work,” Plummer said.

Despite those challenges, Plummer sent his own son and daughter to attend the school.

“It was the greatest experience of my life spiritually, socially, and it’s probably the reason I am able to do everything that I can now in the community,” said Plummer’s daughter Grace.

Until the school doors close for good, the community plans to fight to keep their beloved school open.

“We can change that, and if they ask, we will will help,” said Jeff Plummer.

“This school means so much to so many of us. It has given so many of the children in Appalachia an opportunity,” Kovaleski said.

“And I want students to have that too. They should have every opportunity to grow in the faith so they can go out into world just like I can,” said Grace Plummer.