Van Nest mulls the future after St. Dominic School closure

The fate of St. Dominic School is all but sealed, and many in the community are worried about what comes next.

On Tuesday, January 11, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it will be closing St. Dominic School, along with five other schools in the Bronx, by the end of the school year. For nearly 50 years, the school has educated children from the Van Nest and Morris Park neighborhoods. The archdiocese, which owns the property, has not decided on the property’s future.

“One of our biggest concerns is what they are going to do with that building,” said Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta. “It’s really a loss to the community. It’s a shame for the parents that want to give their kids a Catholic education.”

Several years ago, the archdiocese also shut down nearby Our Lady of Solace School. In August, the church leased the property to the Bronx Charter School of Excellence.

Although the community was divided on bringing a charter school to the area, local resident Joe Bombace said the charter school was ultimately the best thing for the community and the building. “Charter schools are the wave of the future,” he said, adding that both the city Department of Education and the archdiocese pumped thousands of dollars into the building to ensure that it did not fall into disrepair.

The decision to close St. Dominic’s was made because it was operating at an annual deficit of roughly $350,000, which the archdiocese made up with an annual subsidy. Declining enrollment was also a factor in its closure.

St. Dominic, along with 26 other archdiocese schools that were put on the “at risk” list in November, were given a month to organize a plan to eliminate the subsidy. The plan St. Dominic’s submitted focused on leasing a portion of the building to another school and increasing tuition, which only cut out about half of the subsidy. It was not enough.

Father Robert Badillo, pastor of Our Lady of Solace-St. Dominic Parish and chaplain of St. Dominic School, said that the closure is part of the archdiocese’s efforts to change the model of Catholic education so the schools can become financially viable. He said the church is moving towards a regionalized Catholic education model, with schools serving two or more parishes.

On Tuesday, January 18, several community members rallied to give one last push to ask the diocese for a year to implement a new financial plan, although diocesan officials said, at this point, all closures are final.

“They dismissed our proposal, but we need to show them we can do it” said community leader Bernadette Ferrara.

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