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September 22, 2017
This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down
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.- After 111 years of serving the community of Birmingham, Alabama, the city's only African American Catholic elementary school could close due to financial struggles.

Over its long history, Our Lady of Fatima has become an integral part of the community, serving students from all backgrounds: of its 64 children, 11 percent are Catholic, and 89 percent are non-Catholic.

“It's looked at as a community school,” the school's principal Al Logan told the Birmingham Times.

“Most of these children are neighborhood children and their parents are struggling to send them here for a Catholic education,” staff member Cynthia Pinkard noted, according to CBS WIAT.

Closing the school “would really hurt the neighborhood,” she said.  

Our Lady of Fatima is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Birmingham, serving students from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is located in the Titusville area, and is also connected with Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Diocese of Birmingham.

“We've seen a decline in enrollment,” Logan said. “It's just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don't think it has personally anything to do with Catholic or non-Catholic (schools); it just happens.”

Logan believes that the school can raise the necessary funds to keep the school open for at least another year. The school is asking for $150,000 in donations for the 2017-2018 academic year, which needs to be raised by August. The Diocese of Birmingham has chipped in over the years, but the school will need more to keep its doors open.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” Logan said, saying that they have already received donations from all across the country from places like Indiana and Florida.

“With the support of everyone who's interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we'll find a way to keep the school open,” he added.

However, Our Lady of Fatima is not the only school on the chopping block. Across the country, private and Catholic schools in particular have faced financial trouble due to lower enrollment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been a two percent enrollment decrease in private schools over the past 20 years for elementary or secondary students. Over 1,000 Catholic schools have also been forced to close or team up with other schools since 2006.

Looking to the future, Logan is hopeful that the school will receive the money necessary to keep the school open and asked for continued donations.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate, and likewise, anyone who would like to (donate) from any city or location in the country.”

Donations to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School can be received by phone at 205-251-8395 or through the mail at 630 1st Street S., Birmingham, AL, 35205.