By Jenelyn Russo     6/1/2020

At the end of the 2019-2020 academic school year, after nearly 60 years of challenging and inspiring young women to learn with joy, grow in faith and serve others, Cornelia Connelly High School in Anaheim will be closing its doors. 

After years of diminishing enrollment, increased debt, and shortfalls in fundraising efforts, on October 1, 2019, the Board of Trustees of Cornelia Connelly School of the Holy Child voted to close Cornelia Connelly School at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. With deep regret and sorrow, the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus accepted the Trustees’ vote on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. Connelly parents and students were notified of the news on Thursday, October 3, 2019. 

Not unlike other high schools across the country, Connelly transitioned to distance learning in response to COVID-19 beginning March 18, 2020. The challenge of having to navigate a “closure within a closure” has presented a unique situation for the school and staff, but one that they are facing with sincere joy. 

“There has not been one person that can say that we have not held our heads high and carried ourselves with integrity, dignity and the grace that is Connelly,” says Connelly Head of School, Jacqueline Sienkowski. “That joy and that love have really permeated our entire community. And so even though there is sadness, there is also the knowledge that we have been blessed by the sisterhood that is Connelly.” 

A successful distance learning platform that has both maintained Connelly’s academic rigor and addressed the social and emotional needs of their students has guided the school through their final weeks. In honor of the school’s 36 graduates, including nine juniors who accelerated their learning paths to meet all graduation requirements and reclassify as seniors, a graduation ceremony will be held on the school grounds on June 6, 2020. 

School administrators are working closely with local officials to make sure the outdoor celebration adheres to all current safety and social distancing requirements and will include strict seating spacing and attendance restrictions, along with a live stream for additional viewing. 

As is tradition with the Holy Child graduation at Connelly, the seniors will be wearing long white gowns and white gloves and will enter carrying a red rose. Bishop Vann is planning to attend, as he and the school have enjoyed a special relationship and bond over the years. 

While the original plan of welcoming the entire current student body and all Connelly alumni to the celebration will no longer be an option, there are several special moments planned for the school’s final ceremony. A number of guest speakers that span each decade of the school’s existence will be in attendance, including two from Connelly’s first graduating class of 1965. Each speaker will share memories of their Connelly experience and provide some encouraging words for the graduates. 

Every member of Connelly’s class of 2020 is college bound and will be attending a number of prestigious institutions, including USC and the United States Air Force Academy. And for the remaining students, many have already found new school homes at local Catholic high schools. 

Sienkowski is confident that while the Connelly community is saddened to leave, they are living out the words often spoken by the school’s foundress, Cornelia Connelly, as they move on to the next chapter in their lives – “Yes, Lord. Yes. Always yes.”  

“I know that they are called to take the love, the generosity and the passion that is Connelly to their next community,” says Sienkowski. “While we may close our doors, we will never close that sisterhood…because it is inherent in all the girls who have walked this campus. That’s what I want them to take with them. They are Connelly going forward.”