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January 28, 2005

OLA/St. Joseph school to close after 38 years

From: Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH - Jan 28, 2005

Jennifer Gonzalez
Plain Dealer Reporter

This is the last year that students at OLA/St. Joseph Center in Tremont will be together.

School officials have announced that the 38-year-old Catholic school for developmentally disabled children will close at the end of the academic year. However, the center's other programs and services for the deaf, mentally ill, blind and developmentally disabled will continue.

Dennis McNulty, director for disability services at Catholic Charities, said a decline in enrollment and resulting rise in per-pupil costs forced the decision.

"I'm greatly saddened," McNulty said. "I love this school."

Currently, 49 students are enrolled in kindergarten though eighth grade, but 15 are slated to graduate this year. Only 33 students were expected to enroll next year, McNulty said.

Since its founding, OLA/St. Joseph Center's enrollment has been as high as 82 children, ranging from 6 to 16 years old.

McNulty said the trend in special education has moved from self-contained schools to placing disabled students in mainstream classrooms.

When the school opened in 1966, no other Catholic elementary school in Cleveland was educating developmentally disabled students.

The school is working with parents to find alternatives. Metro Catholic Elementary School, on West 54th Street, which offers special-education programs, is willing to accept students. St. Stanislaus Elementary School, on Forman Avenue, which plans to start a program next school year, also will take students.

In addition, OLA/St.Joseph is helping parents who are interested in public schools or other private schools, McNulty said.

Catholic Charities and donations helped support OLA/St. Joseph.

The school began accepting state vouchers two years ago as a way to lighten the financial load.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4327

© 2005 The Plain Dealer.