CINCINNATI – Some Mother of Mercy parents don't think enough was done to keep the 102-year-old, all-girls Catholic high school from closing.
That was the message they brought to school officials Monday night in their first face-to-face meetings since last week's announcement.
“We feel like we weren’t given a chance to work together and see if there was another way,” Rosanne Linden said. “I don’t know if we can come up with another way, but no one was given that opportunity.”
Linden thought it was strange to get a call from her daughter’s school last week. Mercy was going to start late the next day because of an all-staff meeting.
“I turned to my husband and said, ‘This doesn’t sound good. I think they’re going to close the school,’” Rosanne recalled. “He said, ‘There’s no way.’ We kind of laughed.”
But she was spot on. The next morning students and staff were told Mercy would be closed and Mercy students would join those at another all-girls Catholic school, McAuley, in a newly named school, Mercy McAuley, on the McAuley campus in College Hill.
The Sisters of Mercy, who sponsor both schools, said the move was necessary.
"A declining pool of potential students is impacting enrollment now and will continue to do so in the future," said Sister Jane Hotstream, president of the Sisters of Mercy – South Central Community.
Those changes take effect following the 2017-2018 school year.
"(The Sisters') resources are not limitless," said Mother of Mercy principal Dave Mueller. "From a practical standpoint, this is a decision that they've decided just has to be made."
He added that he understood the frustration felt by parents like Rosanne and the "deep loss" their families could be experiencing.
That might be an understatement. Rosanne is heartbroken.
Mercy has been a part of her family from nearly the beginning of the school. Her grandmother was in one of its early graduating classes. Rosanne and other family members also went there.
Now her daughter is a junior. So she’ll be part of the last class to graduate from Mercy before it closes in the spring of 2018.
“I feel an ache in my heart that I hope it’s not the last class,” Rosanne said.
Many in the neighborhood are wondering what will happen to Mercy’s beautiful, expansive campus.
“We want to do everything in our power to make sure it stays a positive asset,” said Henry Frondorf of Westwood Coalition. “This is a big part of Westwood. It’s right in the heart of Westwood.”
The coalition is pushing to be a part of any decision by the Sisters of Mercy on what to do with the building.
“It’s been vital to property values around here to families for sure,” Frondorf said. “I can’t really imagine a Westwood without Mercy High School.”
Both schools will also have meetings with parents Tuesday.
Jennifer Holscher, an alumna who hoped her daughter would be able to attend Mother of Mercy for all four years, attended a meeting Monday night and left unsatisfied; she said she hopes clearer answers emerge in the future.
"A lot of people feel betrayed," she said. "A lot of people are angry; a lot of people are confused. There's not a lot of answers to the questions."