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St. Helen's School begins new year after almost closing

St. Helen's School begins new year after almost closing (Photo: Fox26 News)

Wednesday was the start of a new school year at St. Helen’s School in Southeast Fresno – made all the more special, after the school was on the verge of closing just months ago.

"Overall, I think the feeling is, we are so glad the school is still here," said Principal Jason Garza. “We are full of gratitude.”

The Diocese of Fresno had threatened to shut down the school because it owed more than half a million dollars.

Parents and community leaders started a campaign known as "Save St. Helen's School."

Between March and May, money was raised to save the school -- and secure funding for payroll and benefits.

A mystery donor came forward offering $250,000.

Others pledged to help over a longer period of time.

"We are so blessed. We are so excited that the school is open,” said Rocio Tablas, as she walked onto the campus with her daughter, Maryana. “My child can have a school that can teach values and the beliefs that we have."

"I really like it here. This place is like my family. I've been here since first grade,” said Maryana, a fifth grader at St. Helen’s School. “I really like it here."

Garza says the school made some changes to the curriculum — but arts will remain the focus.

He said 150 students are enrolled for the Fall semester, and is optimistic about an increase in enrollment.

That’s one key step to keeping the school from falling back into the red.

Another: controlling some costs.

Wednesday, parents walked up with reams of paper, packs of hand wipes, markers and other supplies.

Everyone, doing their part, to help save the school and teachers money – and assure the school will be open for years to come.

"As long as everyone is all in, and working hard, I really don't see this school in trouble in the near future," Garza said.

"We're not going to become a statistic of another Catholic school closing. We are one the few, one of the rare that succeeded."

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