Fund-raising fails to save Hutchinson Catholic school

HUTCHINSON — Despite unprecedented community fundraising efforts, the 108-year-old St. Teresa Catholic School will close for financial reasons this summer, Wichita Diocese leaders announced Friday.

In a year when most schools' budgets are falling short, parents raised donations and pledges in the last two months that would plug most of this year's $144,000 shortfall.

The predominantly Hispanic and immigrant school would also be the first Wichita Diocese school to close since 1997, shortly after the schools stopped charging tuition to Catholic families. Now, the schools rely on the generosity and income levels of parishioners.

"We don't get to sue the state of Kansas for money," superintendent Bob Voboril said, referring to recent legal action public schools filed against the state.

Beginning next school year, St. Teresa students will attend Holy Cross Catholic School two miles away.

The Wichita Diocese is the only one in the nation to run all of its schools tuition-free to Catholic families, which church officials said helps give low-income families access to Catholic education.

"I see the diocese going forward in helping minorities, but we are outside of Wichita," said Devorah Castaneda, a leader in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which helps fund St. Teresa.

"If Wichita is moving forward and growing, here is like a step back — to close a school that serves the majority of minorities."