Sacred Heart School in Norco set to close in May

By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald

Sacred Heart of Jesus Elementary School, which has provided a Catholic education to generations of Norco-area families for six decades, will close at the end of the 2018-19 school year, announced Dr. RaeNell Houston, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“It is truly overwhelming to think about the extraordinary impact of the school’s ministry in Catholic education on the Norco community and beyond,” said Houston, who shared the sad news of the school’s forthcoming closure with faculty, staff and school families Jan. 22.

Houston said that despite its strong legacy, student enrollment at Sacred Heart had dropped to a level where it was not sustainable. The school, offering grades pre-K2 through 7, has a current enrollment of 85 students.

“I, along with the staff of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, are proud to have worked with strong school and parish leadership at Sacred Heart over the years,” Houston said, expressing gratitude to 60 years of pastors, principals, teachers, staff and school families.

“The commitment to Catholic education and the Norco community is evident in everything that has been done at Sacred Heart. For this commitment, and for the families that have benefitted from Catholic education at Sacred Heart, we are truly grateful,” she said.

Building community

Nestled in its quiet, neighborhood-based campus at 453 Spruce St., Sacred Heart School opened in 1959. Father Marcel Fourcade, Sacred Heart’s founding pastor, staffed the school with the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1962.

Sacred Heart’s accolades include accreditation with the Louisiana Board of Education (BESE) and AdvancED/Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Programs include an Early Learning Center for 2-year-olds and a Montessori program tailored to pre-K3 through kindergarten. In addition to their core subjects, students receive art, music, computer, Spanish and P.E.

Weekly school Masses, daily religion classes and faith-based events are complemented by a strong service-learning tradition, with the school in recent years adopting the twin issues of hunger and homelessness as its primary focus and exposing students to the corporal works of mercy, serving clients of Ozanam Inn.

Extracurricular clubs and athletics include altar servers, choir, drama, 4-H, volleyball, flag football, basketball, cheerleading, student council  and Jr. BETA club. Students also participate in academic, speech and art competitions at local high schools, and in regional and state science and social studies fairs.

Strong Catholic identity

“What stands out about Sacred Heart is truly our sense of family and community – Sacred Heart is a family with a distinct sense of Catholic identity and love of God that permeates throughout the entire school and Sacred Heart community,” said  Laura DeLaneuville, principal since 2016 and previously a middle school teacher at Sacred Heart for 13 years.

“Sacred Heart is committed to providing a child-centered and Christ-centered education, based on faith, service, leadership and high academic standards. We do so in an atmosphere that fosters a personal and nurturing environment, focusing on the needs of each student,” DeLaneuville added, noting how her students are known for their love of God, for seeing “the face of Jesus” in others, their academic growth and success and their “Cardinal” school spirit.

“Sacred Heart is blessed to have shared in the ministry of Catholic education for the past 60 years as we continue to live the mission of Christ and the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” DeLaneuville added.

Assistance with the changes to be offered

Office of Catholic Schools staff will work with Sacred Heart families to make students’ transition to a new school as smooth as possible, Houston said. Catholic school leaders in the area schools have pledged their support to students registering from Sacred Heart. Students who receive the Louisiana State Scholarship for Excellence (vouchers) will be allowed to transfer at the end of the year to another Catholic school that accepts scholarship students through a process negotiated with the Louisiana Department of Education.

“As we move forward, staff of the Office of Catholic Schools will be on campus to answer questions and help families navigate paper-work,” Houston said.

Families with questions should contact the Office of Catholic Schools by calling (504) 866-7916 or emailing superintendent@arch-no.org.

Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarionherald.org.

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