Under one roof
The parish school opened amid a postwar boom of development, economic optimism and Church growth. Enrollment increased exponentially into the early ’60s, with no reason to think it couldn’t flourish indefinitely.
Over time, however, social and demographic changes inexorably eroded registrations. A new millennium found the school struggling to survive. When a last-gasp rescue campaign fell short, the doors closed for good. By then, the number of students had shriveled to less than a tenth of its peak.
The history of St. Saviour School follows a depressingly familiar arc in Catholic life since the middle of the 20th century. Yet this particular case brought a resurrection of sorts, with blessings entirely unforeseen.
St. Saviour parish was officially founded some 90 days after the end of World War II, drawing from Cincinnati’s fast-growing northeast suburbs of Deer Park and Sycamore Township. Six months later, the parish bought about 10 acres of farmland across from Deer Park High as the site of its permanent home. St. Saviour School opened 70 years ago with 156 students.
That number grew quickly. In fact, enrollment would increase by nearly tenfold before an irreversible decline began in the Sixties. By the 1990s, with the average age of parishioners continuing to rise, fewer than 200 pupils remained on the rolls.
Still, the educational quality remained strong. A Cincinnati Enquirer article in 2002 noted that St. Saviour graduates had been valedictorians at Moeller or Mount Notre Dame high schools for the previous five consecutive years.
But 2001-02 also was the last for St. Saviour School. Enrollment had plunged below 125. What would have been the next eighth-grade graduating class comprised about 20 students.
Long feared, the shutdown proved nevertheless traumatic. “When we closed our school, you can imagine what that was like,” said Carol Richter, parish business manager.
An immediate but temporary use of the empty building quickly emerged.
St. Michael Parish School, planning extensive remodeling to its facilities in neighboring Sharonville, moved its classes to rented space at the St. Saviour propertyfor the 2002-03 year. Then, the following summer, St. Saviour landed a three-year lease from a non-Catholic K-8 school undergoing a metamorphosis of its own.
The new tenant had begun life in 1987 as Holy Trinity Episcopal School, affiliated with a church of the same name in nearby Kenwood. According to the school’s official history, its small classes increasingly attracted special-needs students, generating the evolution toward its eventual niche in the education of diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
A decade after opening, the school transformed into a parent-cooperative entity not affiliated with the church and renamed simply Trinity School. Continued growth spurred its relocation to St. Saviour’s building. St. Saviour parishioners continued to use remaining classrooms for meetings, offices, storage, and the Parish School of Religion (PSR).
Trinity, a couple of years after moving, changed its name to Linden Grove School, for marketing reasons and to clarify its nonsectarian character. Today, the K-8 school has an enrollment of about 65 and remains at the parish building, now known as St. Saviour Education Center. Over the years, Linden Grove and the parish have formed a warm and mutually beneficial relationship.
“We’re very supportive of each other’s mission,” Ms. Richter said. “They use our undercroft, they have notices in the bulletin, they support our St. Vincent de Paul.
“The parish loves the fact we have this for a mission.”
Meanwhile, not having its own parish school hasn’t kept St. Saviour from supporting Catholic education. In addition to its PSR programs, St. Saviour helps its families send their children to any of half-a-dozen nearby Catholic grade schools by paying the difference between the cost of in-parish and out-of-parish tuition.
The old school building, of course, still carries expenses. The 850-member parish recently replaced its roof, using rebate funds from One Faith, One Hope, One Love. Deer Park Roofing completed the project for about $149,000.
“The owner is a parishioner and he really took care of us,” Ms. Richter said.
That project was overdue. “Just like every other church we let things go too long sometimes because of funding problems.” Ms. Richter said. Led by Father Tim Bunch, pastor since 2010, St. Saviour met its campaign pledge goal.
St. Saviour benefactors already have paid more than half the promised donations.
“It’s a great way to get funds,” Ms. Richter said. “Father Tim and I were both surprised we made our goal. This isn’t a poor neighborhood but it’s not a ritzy one either. But we did it.”
First Communion photo atop article: thanks, St. Saviour Class of 1970.
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