BERWICK, Pa. -- This will be the final year for a Catholic school in part of Columbia County.
The Holy Family School has served the Catholic community in Berwick since 1955. Over the years, church leaders say the school's enrollment has declined, while its debt has risen.
According to the Diocese of Harrisburg, those financial concerns are why the school is set to close its doors.
Alumni say the news of the closure blindsided them.
With Sunday Mass in session, grey clouds hung over St. Joseph Church in Berwick. The mood of parishioners on this day was bleak like the weather.
"I'm very sorry to see that happen. I think a Catholic education for children is wonderful. I had it myself. I thought it was very endearing," said Edyie Mancuso of Berwick.
"There's a lot of our children that aren't going to have a Catholic upbringing except for church one hour a week," said Patricia Campagna of Berwick.
Those reactions come just days after the Diocese of Harrisburg announced that Holy Family School will close at the end of the school year. The school serves students pre-k to fourth grade.
"Kids don't have the experience to go through that system. In my opinion, it's the best school you could go to in Berwick and to lead you off in the right path," said Matt Klingerman, a former student.
In a statement, the diocese says the school has operated in a deficit for several years and debts from the school's operation became the parish's responsibility. Parents of current students, parishioners, and alumni found out Friday the school was closing at the end of this school year.
"Upset, sad, hurt that we weren't told in advance, and we were told by a letter. I think maybe a meeting should've been held or something more personal than a letter that our school that I attended as a child was closing," said Kathy Traugh of Berwick.
Holy Family is the last remaining Catholic school in Berwick. Parents are now faced with having to enroll their kids in public school or taking them to Catholic schools in either Hazleton or Bloomsburg.
"My daughter would be in fourth grade next year and she would've had the opportunity to have my mother-in-law, her grandmother, as a teacher, so this doesn't just affect my children, it affects my family. My mother-in-law will be out of a job," said Jennifer Hyde of Berwick.
In a statement, the Diocese of Harrisburg says it will support staff members and work with families that wish to continue their Catholic education at St. Columba School in Bloomsburg.