Sacred Heart School to close in Brawley


CLASS IN SESSION: Teacher Kyle Lira interacts with students at Sacred Heart School in Brawley. Because of low enrollment and financial deficits, the 110-year-old school will close in June. (Credit: David Maung)

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BRAWLEY — Sacred Heart School will close its doors for the last time in June, after 110 years of providing Catholic education in the community.

Father Bernardo Lara, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, said that low enrollment set off “a domino effect” that led to deficits and, ultimately, to what he described in a May 2 letter to parents as “the terribly sad decision” to close the school.

As of this year, the student body had dwindled to 48 students, Father Lara said.

He contrasted that with the 150 students enrolled at the average Catholic school in the Diocese of San Diego. Only last year, he said, Sacred Heart School had around 70 students.

He said that the school is facing an approximately $100,000 deficit for the current school year and, were it to remain open another year, that shortfall would increase by another $164,000.

Sacred Heart School’s struggles go back decades, according to Father Lara, who said that the school would find itself on the verge of closing, only to secure a donor or receive an influx of new students “in the very last minute” to keep it going.

But the school’s good fortune eventually ran out.

Father Lara said that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds that the school received during the pandemic provided a boon, until the last of that money was spent last year.

On May 6, diocesan Superintendent Leticia Oseguera and Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano attended two meetings at the school – one with faculty and staff, and the other with parents.

“We wanted to make sure that they felt heard … We wanted to make sure that we were there for them during these difficult times,” Oseguera said.

She said that the diocese is working to find new jobs for Sacred Heart’s faculty and staff at one of the other Catholic schools in the Imperial Valley — St. Mary’s School, in El Centro, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy and Vincent Memorial Catholic High School, in Calexico.

“As of now, most of them have a job,” said Oseguera, who shared that Annalisa Burgos, principal of Sacred Heart School, will be principal of St. Mary’s School next year.

Meanwhile, the diocese is offering an annual $1,000 scholarship for each student currently enrolled at Sacred Heart School who decides to continue his or her education at St. Mary’s School or Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy next year.

Oseguera said that, in the two years since she became superintendent, she has “really gotten to know” the community at Sacred Heart School.

“I’ve learned about the history of the school, the generations of students that have gone through those doors, (and) how much they love the school,” she said.

“Although we’re very sad, we also want to celebrate the legacy that the school has left behind,” she said. “I know that the school will have a special place in the hearts of many people in Brawley.”

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