An Astoria community is speaking out after finding out that one of its Catholic schools, which has served the community since 1957, will be shutting its doors this June.
Parents and students at Most Precious Blood School, located at 35-32 37th St., found out Friday, through a letter written by Reverend William Krlis, pastor at Most Precious Blood Church, that the 58-year-old school would be closing due to drops in enrollment and the need for costly structural repairs.
Over the past five years enrollment has dropped “precipitously,” Krlis said in the letter, adding that enrollment from kindergarten through eighth grade this year is 191 students, compared to 303 students in September 2008 and 20 students less than last year.
Krlis also said that an estimated $5.5 million in structural repairs are needed for both the school and church. The school building needs about $2.55 million in repairs and work cannot be done at the site while being used full time.
“These essential building repairs, combined with declining enrollment, will not allow us to continue,” Krlis said. “This decision was not made easily. After much dialogue with all relevant parties, including officials from the Diocese of Brooklyn and local Catholic schools, as well as consulting with engineering firms regarding the state of these necessary repairs, I presented these facts to the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn. With his support, I made this painful decision in the best interest of the parish community.”
However, for parents, who started an online petition Saturday against the closing, the reasons that lead to the decision aren’t enough to close the doors at the school.
“We do not want our children and beloved teachers and staff displaced! Quality Catholic Education is almost nonexistent and we cannot afford to close yet another school,” wrote Jennifer Masterson, who started the petition. “Schools in this area are already overcrowded, this will only add to the problem.”
Parents signing the petition also said the timing of the announcement did not leave them enough time to find another school for their children or give them an opportunity to attempt to raise the money needed for repairs.
Since Tuesday, the petition, which has a goal of 2,500 signatures, has garnered 2,104 supporters, including parents, residents and alumni.
According to the Diocese of Brooklyn, help will be provided for parents, and the neighboring Catholic schools will have seats to accommodate Most Precious Blood students and provide information on upcoming open houses.
Local politicians have also decided to speak out against the school closing. State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and Councilman Costa Constantinides have written a letter to the Diocese expressing their concern and asking to reconsider the decision and explore all possible options to keep the school open.
“The outpouring of support from the community and the fear parents are now experiencing over the planned closure of the Most Precious Blood School demonstrate just how much this institution means to our neighbors,” Gianaris said. “I sincerely hope that the Diocese listens to the voices of our community and recommits itself to trying to find a way to keep this beloved school open.”
A meeting with parents has been scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium to review what led to the decision to close the school.