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Future of Berea's oldest Catholic school hangs in the balance

Posted at 4:34 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 19:22:22-05

The Academy of St. Adalbert in Berea is the oldest Catholic school in the Cleveland Diocese, dating back to the late 1800s, but declining enrollment at the end of 2018 appears to be taking a toll.

However, the community hasn't given up. People are coming together to try and keep classes in session.

Parents told News 5 that this is not your typical school.

For years, parents say the Academy of St. Adalbert has led the way when it comes to educating children on the Autism spectrum.

It's one of the many reasons why they're ready to do all they can to keep the building open.

"We all want to fight for this school, it means a lot to the families here, it means a lot to the kids to be able to come here," said Maria Surovy.

Surovy's son, Desmond, was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3-years old.

"What are we going to do with this kid? How are we going to help him achieve his potential? Our pediatrician recommended the Academy of St. Adalbert, which we had never heard of," said Surovy.

After two years of struggling to find the right fit, Surovy said she knew within minutes of visiting that St. Adalbert, with its own sensory room, was the perfect fit for her special needs son.

"If you need to get your wiggles out, swing on a swing, jump on a crash pad, that's in this school," said Surovy.

On Tuesday, Surovy, along with the parents of the 109 students currently at the school, were told declining enrollment at the K-8 building could have devastating consequences.

"It was a shock to the system, and then I was sad," said David Kushlak.

Three of Kushlak's four children attend St. Adalbert.

"We are thrilled that they are here. We looked at other schools," said Kushlak.

A spokesman for the Cleveland Diocese told News 5 that the school needs to not only boost enrollment numbers, it also needs to raise additional funds to ensure future operations.

"We need a boost from the community, there's no way around that," said Kushlak.

Parents like Kushlak are now ready to passionately share their experiences.

"We wanted our kids to be in a place where they felt loved, we wanted our kids to be in a place where they could learn compassion and empathy and could be challenged academically and that all happens here," said Kushlak.

By doing so, they hope to encourage other moms and dads to consider this historic place of learning.

"We want people to know that they can be a part of that," said Kushlak.

With no timetable or exact dollar amount given, it’s business as usual at the school, with an open house for new families in the works for January.

"This school, it's still here. Yes, there's a sense of urgency, but we're going on 150 years," said Kushlak.

The Academy of St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by polish immigrants, so there is also an important historical significance for saving this school. 

A spokesman for the Diocese told News 5 they are taking that legacy and the importance to the community into consideration.