Three Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens will shutter their doors for good this June. Another two will merge and open as one academy in the fall.
The Diocese of Brooklyn made the announcement via press release on Friday, Feb. 5.
Slated to close in Brooklyn are Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Academy, Mill Basin, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights, and in Queens, St. Camillus Catholic Academy, Rockaway Park.
The board of members and board of directors for each school made the “difficult decision” to close the schools, according to a statement from the diocese. Declining enrollment and severe budget deficits were cited as the causes.
Enrollment is down almost 60 percent from five years ago at Mary Queen of Heaven. The budget for the current school year shows a nearly $250,000 deficit and the academy’s fund balance is more than $300,000 in the red.
The financial situation is similar at Our Lady of Guadalupe, where the deficit for the current school year totals more than $215,377, according to a statement from Michael Masaracchio, academy board chairman, which was posted on the academy’s Facebook page. Enrollment has dropped by 75 students in the last five years.
The school has been serving the community for over 90 years.
“To attempt to continue the Academy while further curtailing academic services and extra-curricular activities would be a serious disservice to your sons and daughters,” Masaracchio wrote in a letter sent to academy parents and guardians earlier this week.
At St. Camillus in Rockaway Park, the current school year budget is running a deficit of more than $20,000. Facing deficits of more than $100,000 from the two previous years, the academy has limited funds to meet expenses. Enrollment is down by almost 25 percent from five years ago.
“It’s an emotional time for the diocese when schools have to close because it is affecting the lives of students, parents, and faculty. The decisions come after intense analysis of enrollment trends and the financial picture of each academy,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools.
He said he respected the boards’ decisions on the closures.
“When resources are constrained, it affects all aspects of the learning environment, which eventually impacts students and their needs. Our children are our first priority,” he said.
Also announced was the merger of two schools in Bushwick: St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy and St. Bridgid Catholic Academy. This September, the school will reopen as St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy at the St. Brigid site.
Declining enrollment at both sites brought about the merger, as did the need for expensive building repairs at St. Frances Cabrini. The Board of Directors spent over $200,000 in unexpected repairs last year. Back in December, the school had an early dismissal due to boiler issues and no heat in the building.
The merged St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy will be designated an Embassy School, and thus receive additional funding from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust. All parishes in the diocese contribute to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, which then financially assists the diocese’s Catholic schools and academies to fulfill their evangelizing mission.
The merged academy will also receive technology updates to the infrastructure through DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Students affected by the closures will have seats available to them at nearby Catholic academies, and will receive a one-time $500 tuition grant from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust if they enroll at a Catholic school or academy in the diocese, so long as their previous tuition is paid.
“It is the goal of the office [of the Superintendent-Catholic School Support Services] to assist all parents in placing their children in their neighboring school if they so choose as well as working with faculty and staff who have dedicated their lives to Catholic education,” Dr. Chadzutko said.
“It is our hope that the changing demographics of Brooklyn and Queens stabilizes so that enrollment in Catholic academies throughout the diocese can increase in the future.”