The Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced on Wednesday, February 22nd, that 12 Catholic schools in the city would close permanently at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. The announcement also stated that four other Catholic schools in the Bronx would be combined into two institutions. The Archdiocese announced that the schools were going to be closed due to low levels of enrollment that were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The affected schools are located in the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan.
“We understand these are challenging times for many families, and this is indeed a sad day for everyone in our Catholic schools community,” Superintendent Michael J. Deegan said in a statement on Wednesday. “I personally mourn the loss of every one of our great schools. However, as we process this news, we must resolve that the great tradition of Catholic education in New York will continue, and we will assist all students who are seeking to carry on their Catholic education to find a seat at another excellent school in the Archdiocese.”
The closure of the schools has been met with concern from parents with children currently enrolled in the schools that are closing. In an effort to show their concern, two separate rallies were held by groups of parents. One rally took place outside St. Brendan’s in the Bronx on Friday, February 24th. Another rally was held on the same day at St. Angela Merici, also in the Bronx.
Protests also took place in East Harlem over the closure of The Academy of St. Paul and St. Ann. “We want answers to why our school is closing,” demanded Chelsea Jordan, a student at the school. She continued, asking “why [don’t we] get to live on in our school that’s been here since 1870, so over a century.”
“I just want everybody else to support us and all the other schools that are being affected,” said one parent. “Your voice does matter…Hopefully we can keep our schools open.”
“It was a family,” said Danielle Coluccio, the mother of three students who attend St. Christopher in Staten Island. “It was all we knew. It was beyond amazing. We’re going to miss it a lot. This is home. Nothing will ever replace this school.”
The closure of the schools has had a significant effect on a community that has grown accustomed to having Catholic schools in their area. Several of the parents and teachers at these schools are themselves alumni.
“We’re beyond devastated,” said Coluccio. “I’m an alumni. I started here in second grade and Mrs. Falabella was my first teacher. I was her first class. So this is beyond personal.” Mrs Falabella is the current principal of St. Christopher.
There was also the feeling amongst the community that the closure of the schools came as a surprise. “We were kind of blindsided. It came out of nowhere. We had no idea that this was going to happen,” said the father of a student.
Assistance and support will be provided to all those affected by the school closures according to the Archdiocese. This includes both students and those who will lose their jobs. Directors of Enrollment will help students find placement at other Catholic schools, while the Archdiocese Superintendent’ Office will work with the teachers union to find employment for those without.
“It is never a good day when we announce closures to any of our beloved schools, but the goal is always to strengthen the remaining institutions and preserve Catholic education in New York for decades to come,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in a press release. “We are doing everything we can to minimize the impact this will have on families, and will provide both educational guidance and pastoral support to all those affected to ensure all children will be warmly welcomed into a nearby Catholic school. We are all in this together, and with hard work and God’s blessings, we will come out on the other side.”