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School’s out


Villa Teresa plans to shut its doors after 79 years educating students.

Greg Horton March 21st, 2012

After 79 years of educating Oklahoma students, Villa Teresa School will be closing on July 31. Administrators of the school, which is located in Midtown, cited issues that included financial concerns, dilapidated buildings and the age of the Carmelite nuns who run the school.

“Many of our sisters are getting too old to work in the school,” said Sister Patricia Ann Miller said. “While we’ve talked about bringing others in to work, the core of the school has always been Carmelite spirituality. We believe the school would eventually lose that focus.”

Since its founding in 1933, Villa Teresa has been operated by the Carmelite Sisters of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, a Catholic order that emphasizes contemplative prayer, humility and service.

The school has focused on early elementary education, with students graduating after fourth grade. Its impending closing has some parents concerned about available pre-kindergarten programs.

right A family leaves Villa Teresa

“Many Catholic schools don’t have pre-k programs,” said Amber Frost, president of Villa Teresa Parent Teacher Organization. “It’ll be especially difficult to find programs for kids under 3 years old.”

Frost said closure has been a fear for a couple of years.

“The sisters have been subsidizing the tuition for years now,” she said, “They wanted to keep Catholic education affordable. They’ve had to raise tuition the past two years, but with increased costs, they haven’t raised revenue.”

Miller, who is general superior of the convent, said the youngest of the school’s three buildings was built in the 1950s.

“The buildings are in need of major structural repairs, including new roofs,” said Miller.

Parents and employees received a letter March 9 announcing the school’s closing and naming Cassie Herd the interim principal. The latter news came as a surprise to some, primarily because Sister Veronica Higgins had been Villa Teresa’s principal since 1973.

“We were told Sister Veronica has been placed on medical leave,” Frost said. “The kids are heartbroken that she’s not around. We could not have asked for a better, more involved principal at this school.”

Miller said that she could only confirm that Higgins is on medical leave.

As for the future of the school and convent, the sisters have a decision to make: The grounds belong to the Carmelites, not the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The property itself is on a triangle in Midtown between Classen Drive, Dewey Avenue, and N.W. 13th Street. Miller said she had received calls about the property from interested parties, but told them that the sisters must first attend to immediate concerns.

Photo by Mark Hancock

 
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