Parents on Friday night held a noisy parade of cars, firetrucks and an ambulance to protest the decision to close two Catholic schools in Wildwood.

Continuing a trend in Catholic education that started before the coronavirus the Camden Diocese said it made the "gutwrenching decision" to close the Good Shepherd Regional Elementary School in Collingswood, Saint Joseph Regional Elementary School in Hammonton, Cape Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Wildwood, Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton and Wildwood Catholic High School at the end of the academic year.

Video posted by the Cape May Herald on its Facebook page shows supporters of the schools circling Wildwood Catholic High School in cars and several fire trucks.

"Not without a fight" was shouted out the windows of several vehicles, according to Joseph Brooks on Twitter.

Meg Margarites on her Twitter account said that it was a "low point" finding out the school was closing but the high point is "the fight has started to save it."

"The decision to close the schools is difficult," the Diocese said in a written statement. "Years of dwindling community support in the form of declining student enrollment and local fundraising, despite significant diocesan and parish financial support, has necessitated this decision."

"Over the last five years, each school has seen a precipitous drop in registrations despite the best efforts of the school administrators to implement new enrollment and academic initiatives and continue their traditions of excellence in education while providing a home where the Catholic faith can be taught, learned, and lived."

The pandemic is expected to compound the financial and enrollment issues faced by the schools because of the economic impact of the shutdown.

The statement chastised Catholics for not making a religious education a priority, which led to the schools having a "weakened viability."

About 12,000 students attend 28 Catholic elementary schools, six diocesan Catholic high schools and three non-diocesan Catholic high schools within the Camden Diocese.

Several Catholic schools have closed in the past three years, including St. Joseph School in Mendham, Holy Innocents School in Neptune Township and Saint Anthony High School in Jersey City.

Saint Brendan School of Clifton merged with the Academy of St. James of Totowa in the Paterson Diocese to form the Academy of St. James and St. Brendan. In the Trenton Diocese, St. Aloysius School of Jackson and St. Veronica School in Howell became Mother Seton Academy in Howell.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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