WELLSBURG - After providing a Catholic education to area children for more than 50 years, St. John School has closed its doors, though the building still will be used for Christian education provided through St. John Catholic Church.
The school was renamed St. John the Evangelist Early Education Center last year when declining enrollment led to it being converted it to a pre-school and kindergarten program, with grades 1-4 dropped.
But the center drew just 33 children, including six kindergarteners, said Bryan Minor, a spokesman for the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese.
"When considering the costs and enrollment of that particular program, it is apparent to leadership at St. John the Evangelist Parish and the diocese that St. John's couldn't sustain such a program," Minor said.
He said St. John officials had borrowed $348,820 from the diocese in the last several years to keep the school open and $35,000 this year to meet the center's costs.
The closing also will affect three teachers and a principal at the school.
Minor said, "The principal, Cindy McDaniel, tried hard over the past several years to keep the school open in those various levels, and she and her staff were true professionals during this painful process."
He continued, "Mrs. McDaniel has been a most professional representative of St. John's, and she has handled herself with dignity and grace during a difficult situation. She is a wonderful education professional."
Minor said many children from the school have enrolled at St. Paul School in Weirton.
The two-story school building will be used in the future for the parish's religious education program, he said.
The building was built in 1952 but was not the first in Wellsburg to be operated by the St. John Parish.
The first was operated at 415 Commerce St. from 1861 to 1876.
It was followed by another at the corner of Commerce and Fifth streets in 1917 and a four-room building at the present site by the present church building, both built around 1925.
The four-room school was replaced in 1952 by the present building, which was expanded to include the school's cafeteria and additional rooms in 1959.
Children at the school were taught by nuns for many years. At one time it was attended by 144 students.