Cleanup Begins At Berkshire County's Last Catholic High School

Jun 21, 2017

After holding classes 120 years, Berkshire County's lone Catholic high school, St. Joseph Central of Pittsfield, closed its doors last week.

The school's closure was announced last fall amid sagging enrollment. And as the process has begun to clean out the building, students and staff members have largely moved on.

St. Joe Principal Amy Gelinas said most students will attend a handful of public and private schools.

"We've really split them up all over," Gelinas said. "They had an opportunity to shadow at all these places throughout the year and to test out different schools, and see where they fit in."

Gelinas said some of the 31 faculty and staff members from St. Joe have either found work or retired, with others still looking for a job.

"The teachers toward the end of the year, when that reality starts hitting that 'I need a job,' and they're busy interviewing and trying to what they can, it made it a little more difficult this last month," Gelinas said.

And over those final days at St. Joe's, Gelinas said there was an effort to shine a positive light on the school and its legacy.

"You'd have a certain event [occur for a final time] that would make people sad and you would think on it," Gelinas said. "But rather than dwell on it, we kept moving forward and just celebrated what we were. And every chance we had, we made it a celebration of what St. Joe meant to everybody."

On this early summer afternoon, the halls are mostly quiet as the process began to clean out the building. Gelinas said she wanted to hold off on doing this until after the school year ended, to preserve a sense of normalcy for the kids. She said much of the furniture and equipment is headed to various non-profits.

"It was my goal to get our stuff where it is still used, not just throw it out or have it in somebody's house, but to have as much as we can into a place where the public can use it," Gelinas said.

St. Joe alums and eventually the public will have a chance to claim what remains, for a donation. The money will go to a college scholarship fund for now-former students.

And there does appear to be some interest in artifacts from St. Joe. Old yearbooks and sports jerseys were sold at a recent event, generating a few thousand dollars for the scholarship fund.

Gelinas said crucifixes and other religious items have been given away.

As for the building and property, which sits just off Pittsfield's downtown, a spokesperson for the Springfield Diocese said no plans have been made as of yet.