A group of parents plans to start a private Catholic school in Ojai next fall at the site of St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, which is closing this year for lack of students.
The new school, to be called St. Rita Catholic School, has about 65 students whose parents have indicated that they plan to enroll their children next September, parents said.
Except for teaching duties, which will be done by state-certified teachers, the parents plan to run St. Rita themselves, doing everything from clerical to custodial work, said parent Christine Oswald.
Many of the parents were part of an effort this spring to keep St. Thomas Aquinas open, Oswald said.
The 35-year-old school, affiliated with Ojai's St. Thomas Aquinas Church and run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, will shut down this month because enrollment had declined from a high of 148 students two years ago to 92 students this year, a school official said.
Parents had tried to increase enrollment at the school to 110 but were not able to sign up enough students by the April 15 deadline set by church officials.
St. Rita Catholic School will lease the St. Thomas Aquinas facilities from the church, but the new school will operate independent of the archdiocese, Oswald said.
Tuition will be $1,750 a year, the same as at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary.
The school will be named in honor of St. Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun who is the patron saint of desperate cases who was canonized in 1900.
A meeting for prospective St. Rita parents and students will be held at 7 p.m. tonight at Parish Hall, 130 W. Ojai Ave. in Ojai.