After nearly 50 years serving the children and communities of the Van Nest and lower Morris Park and an 11th hour plan to increase revenue, St. Dominic School will be closing its doors at the end of the school year.
On Tuesday, January 11, the Archdiocese of New York announced that St. Dominic School, along with dozens more in the Bronx and surrounding counties, will no longer receive subsidies from the church. For St. Dominic, that means about $350,000 each year will be lost, so the diocese intends to close the school after the last day of classes in June.
“It’s just devastating,” said Kathy Canzoniero, a first-grade teacher. “That’s the only school there for miles around. Most of the kids come from the area. Some are below poverty level and they’re going to lose out. It’s going to affect these poor kids who have no other place to go.”
Counselors with the diocese will reach out to the families of the 200 students who will soon need to transfer to other schools in the area, diocesan officials said.
Cutting the funding is part of a diocese-wide initiative called the Pathways to Excellence, which is aimed at boosting Catholic education in the face of falling enrollments.
In November, a committee that was formed to look at all 216 schools in the archdiocese announced that 32 schools – a total of six in the Bronx – were at risk for closure as part of the initiative. On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced plan to close 27 schools. It is still considering whether or not to close one.
“The reconfiguration committee has done its job well, with compassion for school families in transition and with concern for the future of Catholic education, which is at the heart and should of this process,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a statement to the press. “Thanks to the parishes that now, painfully, must close their schools, for their understanding and commitment to Catholic education. Moving forward, we encourage local communities to join us as we build a bold future for Catholic schools for the 21st century.”
After the list of at-risk schools was released, each school was asked to come up with a five-year funding plan outlining how the school could become economically feasible again. St. Dominic officials proposed increasing tuition rates and renting out unused space to another school.
According to Al D’Angelo, president of the Morris Park Community Association, the plan should have been enough to get the initial at-risk designation reversed. “If the pastor had fought for the school, it would be open,” D’Angelo said. “With the increase in tuition and a rental coming in, which could have fed into St. Dominic’s and helped enrollment, it would have been able to survive.”
Officials with the archdiocese did not comment about what will be happening with the building after the school is closed, but community residents fear the neighborhood will be devastated without the institution that has served residents since it was built in 1952.
“The school in any community is like the heart. It’s the focal point and if the heart goes everything goes,” said Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance vice-president Bernadette Ferrara.