ELKHORN — The 2013 eighth-grade graduating class of St. Patrick School will be the school’s last.

A letter posted on the St. Patrick Parish website, written by pastor Fr. Oriol Regales, stated the school could no longer continue.

“I want you to know that my first concern has always been the good of the children,” Fr. Regales wrote. “I want to let you know that the main reason that has driven me to make this heartbreaking decision has been the decreasing amount of students we serve.”

The school, which has been in existence 55 years, has seen a gradual decrease in enrollment since the 2008-09 school year.

There are currently 58 students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten to eighth- grade school, down from 60 last year and 82 the year before. Next year the student body was projected at 54 students.

“Small schools need to be viable schools,” Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, told your Catholic Herald. “Our trend in the archdiocese is schools that are strong and able to sustain themselves into the future. Small schools, in some cases in the archdiocese, can be strong schools and sustainable … but we have to look at many factors.”

She said declining enrollment and maintaining the financial needs of the parish while trying to keep the school proved to be too big of an obstacle.

According to Cepelka, the hope is that every parish support Catholic education even if it does not have a Catholic school on site.

To that end, she said the remaining students who are going on to Catholic school will have their first year tuition at the new school paid.

“The parish is going to pay full tuition for the first year for children going to Catholic school,” Cepelka said, adding this is the “responsible” decision.

Students and their families are being advised to consider Catholic schools near Elkhorn, particularly St. Andrew School, Delevan, which is less than 10 miles away.

Other options include St. Francis de Sales School, Lake Geneva; St. Peter School, East Troy; and St. Thomas Aquinas School, Waterford.

A letter sent to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki on April 10 detailed the school’s efforts to increase enrollment by making banners and yard signs, and visiting religious education classes to create buzz for the school.

“Clearly, it’s very sad when a situation like this has to occur,” Cepelka said. “This is a complex process that we do not take lightly.”

Fr. Regales wrote that after two years at St. Patrick he’s very sad to have had to close the school.

“We really enjoyed having our very own school in Elkhorn,” he wrote. “However, we still have a school, possibly more than one, depending on where our students choose to continue their Catholic education. Please, join me as we continue to pray for those who are directly affected by this change.”