After a one-year hiatus, Catholic education is set to return to Lebanon County, resuming a 161-year tradition.

Starting on Sept.13, Our Lady of the Cross School will hold pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classes at the former Youth for Christ building at 1691 Grace Ave., North Lebanon Township.

Lebanon Catholic School, the combined successor to Lebanon Catholic High School and Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School, was closed by the Diocese of Harrisburg at the end of the 2020 school year.

Read More: Lebanon Catholic alumni reminisce following school closure: ‘It was a family’

The diocese said that LC, the county’s lone Catholic school, had been “facing enrollment and financial challenges for years and [its] continued operation [was] no longer sustainable by the area parishes.”

Attempts by a group of parents, alumni, and supporters to purchase the old LC building at 1400 Chestnut St. were unsuccessful.

Read More: Buyer apparently found for Lebanon Catholic School property

Read More: Lebanon Catholic property contains the Donaghmore Mansion and the historic Patch estate

Unlike Lebanon Catholic, Our Lady of the Cross will receive no financial support from the diocese or local churches.

“Financially, we are completely independent from any parish or the diocese,” said Head of School Deb Waters, who was the last principal at LC.

But Waters said the curriculum will closely parallel what is taught at Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“We are connected with the local Catholic community, so the bishop, by virtue of his ecclesiastical authority, has the authority to ensure that our teaching is true to the faith,” she said.

The Bishop of Harrisburg has granted permission to priests at Lebanon County parishes to say Mass and administer the sacraments at the school, according to Waters, making Our Lady of the Cross the diocese’s first “private independent school teaching in the Catholic tradition.”

The school is operated by the LC Strong Foundation, a tax-exempt corporation created specifically to revive Catholic education in the County. Its board of directors consists of eight voting and six non-voting members.

Local attorney Elizabeth Judd is board president.

The LC Strong Foundation also owns the building, according to Judd, which was purchased for $925,000 and funded by three anonymous donors.

Judd and Waters added that the school is registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and that the accreditation process, which takes several years for start-up schools, is underway. The National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools and the Cardinal Newman Society are two accrediting organizations that the school is targeting.

Our Lady of the Cross is accepting registrations, and Waters said that 33 students, a mix of former Lebanon Catholic students and new students, had enrolled as of Sept. 1.

Annual tuition for the new school’s first year will be:

  • Pre-K and kindergarten – $5,000
  • Grades 1 to 5 – $4,000
  • Grades 6 to 8 – $4,500
  • Grades 9 to 12 – $5,000

Waters said “we are working on establishing some help for families especially with multiple children.”

How to contact Our Lady of the Cross School

Our Lady of the Cross School, 1691 Grace Ave., Lebanon, PA 17046

For general inquiries

Telephone: 717-500-6800 or 717-673-8297
Email: [email protected]

To reach Head of School Deb Waters

Email: [email protected]

Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.

Learn more about membership and join now here.