Judgement day came and went for parents of eight Bronx parochial schools on the chopping block by the Archdiocese of New York, but their fate is still hanging in the balance.
Wednesday, January 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 in operation.
The parochial schools at-risk for closure are: 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’s Elementary School in Williamsbridge, 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.
Parents from the schools have been struggling to come up with ideas, including fundraisers, emergency Pay Pal accounts, holding rallies, and even recruiting state Senator Gustavo Rivera to draw attention to their struggle.
Archdiocese officials said each school’s survival plan is expected to include factors they believe were overlooked by the local boards and committees that made the closure recommendations, plus plans for increasing enrollment, and for addressing whatever deficit might exist.
The schools were notified of their impending closures by the diocese in November. Diocesean officials said the next step will be to have pastors and principals of the at-risk schools meet with the local board or committee.
Many parents feel they were given the potential closing news with little-to-no time to come up with a plan to raise money.
“There is a misconception about schools having to ‘come up with the money,’” archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said in a statement. “They should indicate how they would address the deficit (which, until now, had been subsidized by the archdiocese, often for hundreds of thousands of dollars each year per school), but we are not expecting them to have the money on hand by this week.” The process has been underway for more than three years, Zwilling said.
“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,” he stated. “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.”
He said that “For any schools that will close in June, we will work with the parents and students to let them know of other Catholic schools available nearby which are all eager and excited to welcome new students. There will be a seat for every student who wishes one in a Catholic school.”
He added that “This strategic plan will guarantee a stable, viable, growing Catholic education system for parents who wish to choose that for their children.”
As of January 3, Our Lady of Angels had raised $210,000, including an anonymous donation, while St. Mary Star of the Sea school on City Island may also receive an annoymous donation that would bring the amount raised to over $100,000.
Blessed Sacrament School has received free help from a law firm to give them 501(c)(3) non-profit status to help receive donations.
The schools will be notified later in the month, of whether or not they will be spared.
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394