By John McDevitt and Jericka Duncan

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Philadelphia (CBS) – As the Archdiocese of Philadelphia prepares to close four high schools and 44 parish schools, students, families and community members are devastated.

One of the parish schools recommended to close is Epiphany of Our Lord near 11th and Jackson Streets in South Philadelphia.

“It’s like my second home, I can’t believe it’s closing. I don’t want it to close”

Nine-year-old Santo Biondo and his mom Lisa were headed into Epiphany of our Lord gym for a Saturday afternoon basketball game.

The school and four other parish schools are recommended to close with a total of about 1000 students planned to move into a regional school that closed two years ago; the former Stella Maris school building.

Lisa, who graduated from the grade school, was fighting back tears.

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“It keeps the neighborhood alive. The kids are involved in sports and the parents are involved. Why are we going to reopen a school that has been closed I don’t get it. I don’t get it something has to be done.”

Eyewitness news spoke to parishioners before Sunday mass at Epiphany of Our Lady. They talked about Friday’s Catholic schools closing announcement.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Thomas Stranix, who graduated from Epiphany in 1972. “To see this going on because of tuition, I mean, every so many years tuition does go up.

“It’s affecting so many people in different ways,” said parishioner Michael DelGiorno. ” I just think they should take a long hard look at keeping the Epiphany open, really because of the neighborhood and the incredible dedication of the pastor and the teachers.

There was high praise for the school’s principal, who won principal of the year last year.

Parents vow to appeal and a prayer vigil will be held Monday night at the church.

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