NEW YORK — The Archdiocese of New York has announced that 26 of its 159 elementary schools are at risk of closing this June, affecting more than 5,000 of the 50,000 students in local Catholic schools.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York regretted the “very somber news” on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age.
“I dread this! I’d rather be opening new schools, not closing some!” he wrote Nov. 28.
The cardinal expressed sorrow to those whose schools had closed, especially individuals who had just changed schools after previous closures. However, he encouraged parents to enroll their children in other nearby Catholic schools that are “eager to welcome every student from a closing school.”
Local boards composed of laity and clergy evaluated the long-term viability of the elementary schools in their area in light of the archdiocese's 2010 reorganization plan, the Archdiocese of New York said Nov. 26. The review boards analyzed school enrollment, school finances, academics and local demographics.
The review determined that St. Agnes Boys High School in Manhattan, which has 200-plus students, is also at risk of closure in June.
Final decisions on the 26 elementary schools will be made in January 2013.
The announcement does not include Catholic elementary schools on Staten Island. Because of the damage and disruption that Hurricane Sandy caused, no decisions regarding archdiocesan elementary schools on Staten Island will be announced until 2013.
Timothy McNiff, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools, said the initiative intends to “both stabilize and grow the number of Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of New York, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the need for future school closures.”
Pastors and principals of schools at risk of closure will meet with members of local review boards or reconfiguration committees to discuss why their schools were selected and what actions should be taken next.
Cardinal Dolan urged those whose schools had closed not to be afraid.
“While your own beloved school might not be open next September, our Catholic schools will, and there is a desk for you! The address of your school might change; the quality and welcome of a new one will not,” he said.
The cardinal said Catholics “did everything we could, with the archdiocese alone investing tens of millions of dollars into the schools, in addition to grants from generous parishes, benefactors and parents sacrificing to pay tuition.”
In 2011, the archdiocese closed 26 elementary schools and one high school, citing declining enrollment. The closures affected 3,700 students.
Cardinal Dolan said the second wave of closures should be the last collective action.
“While I can’t promise you that, in the future, a school might have to close, I can at least tell you that we envision no more ‘Black Mondays’ like yesterday, when we have to announce dozens of them,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He urged Catholics to focus on the goal of a “strong, vibrant system of excellent Catholic schools” that are accessible to all children in order to continue “the two-century legacy of private, faith-based, character-forming education.”