Students at Our Lady of Grace (OLG) School in Howard Beach may have said, “See you in September” last week, but when the school reopens for another year, it will do so as Ave Maria Catholic Academy.
But OLG, along with St. Anastasia School in Douglaston – which will reopen as Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy – and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School – which will reopen in September as Notre Dame Catholic Academy of Ridgewood – seems to have avoided a worse fate.
The Diocese of Brooklyn has decided to close eight elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens, including St. Benedict Joseph Labre School, St. Catherine of Sienna School, St. Aloysius School, St. Ann School and Blessed Sacrament School in Jackson Heights.
According to a press release from the Diocese, “Beginning in January 2009, the diocesan committee overseeing the school strategic planning process in Brooklyn and Queens entitled ‘Preserving the Vision’ held more than 35 consultation meetings in every region of the Diocese of Brooklyn, to review the 29 draft proposals that were submitted for comment. An unprecedented amount of feedback and suggested revisions were received by the diocesan committee in the weeks that followed.”
Although the estimated cost per student in Catholic schools is about one-third of that for public schools (not counting special education students) rising costs, declining enrollment and changing demographics have put many parish schools in a financial bind, say officials.
The conversion of a parochial school into an academy separates pastoral, educational and management roles.
The parish priest would still oversee the spiritual needs and religious portion of curriculum, while the principal tends to “teacher development” and a Board of Directors administers the school.
“In five years, every Catholic school in the Diocese will be an academy,” said Father Kieran E. Harrington, spokesperson. “One of the deficiencies of the current system is that we need to bring more [people] with various expertise into the schools.”
“Our high schools are already academies,” said Principal Margaret Baxter of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School, adding that she had been a director of one diocese high school. “The principal takes care of education and the Board takes care of the business end – everybody does what they’re good at.”
In Flushing, St. Michael School will remain open as a parochial school while Mary’s Nativity School will be the site for a new Catholic academy.
“Change is never easy. Sometimes, it is even painful. My thoughts and prayers are with the students, parents, and teachers . . . I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to assure that your child finds a seat in the school of your choice,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “My friends, we have begun a new chapter in the life of our schools. The next few years will bring exciting innovations, additional programs and the birth of new, quality academies that will pass on the vision of Catholic education for generations to come. Together, let us resolve to begin this new chapter in Catholic school education.”