One Bronx school was spared, seven others were sacrificed as the Archiodese of New York brought the fiscal hammer down on struggling Bronx and other parochial schools across the region this week.
The Bronx lost the most schools as a total of 22 were told they’d be closed by June, their students absorbed into other nearby schools. Of the 26 at-risk elementary schools announced two months ago, four will remain open.
After a long process that included fundraising, rallies, and extensive finacial planning only St. Mary’s school in Williamsbridge was spared.
Our Lady of Mercy in Fordham; Holy Spirit elementary school in Morris Heights; Our Lady of Angels school in Kingsbridge; St. Jerome school in Mott Haven; St. Anthony’s School in Wakefield; St. Mary Star of the Sea school on City Island, and Blessed Sacrament in Soundview, the alma mater of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, will close. The combined total registration of all eight schools was less than 2,000 students, a number the diocese called economically unfeasible.
The archdiocese said it would work with parents to re-locate those students to other under-utilized schools.
Though unionized, teachers at the closed schools will have no job guarantees, though a diocese spokeswoman said teacher lists will be compiled and shared with schools that have openings.
“I am sincerely saddened by the decision to close a school so significant to the students, parents and communities of Co-op City and City Island,” said Desiree White, a mother with two children at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea.
“How do I comfort my oldest child? Next year she was due to graduate with honors from eighth grade with friends and basketball teammates for six years,” said White. “This will be a difficult and abrupt ending to handle with care as this wasn’t just a school but an extension of our family.”
Danilo Cruz, with three children attending St. Jerome’s school in Mott Haven, said he was saddened the archdiocese rejected the school’s financial plan.
He said the school proposed becoming a separate parish-run school, independent from the regional board, similar to others in the Bronx, such as Villa Maria in Country Club.
He said he was concerned about applying for other Catholic schools.
“If families had some type of early acceptance response from other schools, a guaranteed spot, this would ease the transition,” said Cruz. “The catholic church needs to act in good faith, and uphold its moral obligation to its congregants.”
But Herminia Roman, principal of Blessed Sacrament School, said “It has been promised by the archdiocese that there will be a seat for every child in a Catholic school if they want it.”
“We’ve had a very heavy heart and sadness at the school,” said Roman. “It’s just been very sad. The school is going to be greatly missed by the community.”
Wednesday, Jan. 3 marked the deadline for each school to come up with a financial plan to raise nearly $1 million over the next three years, in order to remain open.
Parents from the schools struggled to come up with ideas, including fundraisers, emergency Pay Pal accounts, and rallies. The schools were notified of their impending closures by the diocese in November. Diocesean officials had pastors and principals of the at-risk schools meet with the local board or committee.
Many parents felt they were given the potential closing news with little-to-no time to come up with a plan to raise money.
“The schools have all been aware of the process — especially given that two years ago we also had a large number of schools closed, and we indicated at that time that the process was ongoing,” diocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said in a statement. “The school communities were certainly aware of what was happening, and have definitely had the opportunity to address whatever problems (usually stemming for a lack of enrollment) in order to prepare.”
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