Lincoln Park catholic school, community fights to keep doors open

'We’re a hidden gem'
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Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 30, 2024

LINCOLN PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — St. John Paul II Classical Catholic School in Lincoln Park and the community are fighting to keep the doors open through fundraising and an enrollment initiative.

On Tuesday, Principal Melissa Manczak told 7 News Detroit that on April 22, the archdiocese gave the school a deadline of May 1 to raise $120,000 and increase enrollment to 110 students for the upcoming school year or risk closing.

If you’re ever in Lincoln Park, you might see Tom Papp spreading the word on his bike. The bike is equipped with a sign on a pole that promotes the school's effort to boost enrollment.

He said he typically charges to advertise, but for this cause, he’s donating his time.

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Tom Papp volunteering his time spreading the word about the potential closure of St. John Paul II Classical School in Lincoln Park. (April 30, 2024)

“Being to help these guys for free is helping me — helping me just be me, and that’s worth it right there," Papp explained.

Jenni Nelson’s daughter is in fifth grade, and Elizabeth Rios has a preschooler and kindergartner.

“The separate families really become one giant family. It’s a beautiful community. It’s a beautiful curriculum here," Rios said.

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Parent Elizabeth Rios fights to keep St. John Paul II Classical Catholic School in Lincoln Park open. (April 30, 2024)

Despite those desirable qualities, the Archdiocese of Detroit is focused on the school’s sustainability.

7 News Detroit met with the Rev. David Bechill and Manczak at the school, along with Nelson and Rios.

“It’s very much an emotional roller coaster, right? When you hear that daunting task of you have one week to earn $120,000, that’s very overwhelming,” Rios said.

Nelson described, “The community, the outpouring of love and people wanting to get in and help, it’s been humbling and it’s beautiful.”

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Parent Jenni Nelson fights to keep St. John Paul II Classical Catholic School in Lincoln Park open. (April 30, 2024)

To overcome the challenge, the school launched its Fund our Future campaign.

“Everyone’s been praying. From a fundraising standpoint, we have met our goal of $120,000 and we are still actively enrolling and having students come into our community here,” Manczak said.

She explained what she believes are the challenges with enrollment.

“One of the biggest things is finances is hard. It’s a tough time right now, and it’s really people don’t know that we’re here. So, I always look at it when I came here — we’re a hidden gem," Manczak said.

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St. John Paul II Classical Catholic School Principal Melissa Manczak. (April 30, 2024)

"Once people realize that we’re here and what we stand for, then we’re not going to face this adversity anymore.”

Unfortunately, St. Germaine Catholic School in St. Claire Shores is set to close at the end of the school year despite surpassing its fundraising and enrollment goals.

“There are differences with our situation and their situation. We’re very blessed here to have a group of priests and priest within our school that are very supportive and want to see our vision here at St. John Paul move forward," Manczak explained.

VIDEO: St. Germaine Catholic School to close despite parents surpassing fundraising goal

St. Germaine Catholic School to close despite parents surpassing fundraising goal

In a statement to 7 News Detroit, the Archdiocese of Detroit wrote:

"For the last several months, the Archdiocese of Detroit has been supporting the Team of Priests in charge of St. John Paul II to right-size the school budget so they can open next year in a sustainable and fiscally responsible way. St. John Paul II, like all our schools, established its own budget for the 2024-2025 school year and has been working, with our support, to meet it. As part of this process, the school has launched fundraising and enrollment efforts. We are grateful to see such a positive response from the community.

Regarding St. Germaine, it is important to know that the circumstances are very different for each school, and ultimately, the priests assigned to our schools decide whether to stay open or to close. Father David Bechill, a member of the team of priests at St. John Paul II, has assured the community that he is committed to working to forge a sustainable path forward. I know the principal also shares this commitment.”