Two More Catholic Academies To Close; Rising Costs, Falling Enrollments Make Keeping Schools Open Impossible, Educators Say

A seventh grade class at St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Thérèse of Lisieux Catholic Academy in Flatbush took part in a Christmas ornament exchange in December. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

EAST NEW YORK — Two more Catholic academies in the Diocese of Brooklyn are closing. The news comes less than three weeks after another academy in Queens announced its closure.

This school year will be the last for Salve Regina Catholic Academy in East New York and St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Thérèse Lisieux Catholic Academy in Flatbush, according to the Office of Superintendent of Schools-Catholic School Support Services.

The decisions to close the academies were made separately by each academy’s board of trustees.

Deacon Kevin McCormack, superintendent of schools for the diocese, blamed the closures on two factors: declining enrollments and the unsustainable costs of operating the schools.

“The difficult decisions to close these schools were reached after a thorough review of the pattern of student enrollment and the financial condition of each academy,” he said in a statement.

According to each academy’s board of trustees, the student enrollments declined to the point where if the academies had remained open, the projected enrollment figures for this coming September would have been: Salve Regina, 143; and St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 122.

The superintendent’s office will assist parents in finding other Catholic academies in which to enroll their children. An informational website has been created for parents to access.

The board of directors of Salve Regina Catholic Academy informed parents in a letter dated April 26. 

According to Board Chairman Jorge De Jesus, the academy’s enrollment has seen a significant drop — from 565 students in 2014 to 193 this school term. 

The board had set a goal of enrolling at least 82 new students for the fall 2024 term — bringing the total to 225 — but fell short.

“The low number of registrants has remained despite all our efforts to increase enrollment,” De Jesus wrote. 

De Jesus, who called the closure decision “painful,” told The Tablet that the diocese had been providing financial assistance to the academy to try to keep the doors open, but that in the end rising costs and declining enrollment made the task impossible.

“We were trying to work the numbers to get to a place where we were solvent without having the assistance of the diocese,” De Jesus explained.

However, that would have meant taking several drastic measures, including raising the tuition from $4,500 a year to $6,000 — an unaffordable sum for many parents in a low-income community like East New York. 

According to the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the poverty rate in the East New York/Starrett City area of Brooklyn was 19.2% in 2021 compared to 18.0% for the city as a whole.

Salve Regina parents like Frank Spinelli are absorbing the news. “Every time I see the principal, I tear up a little,” he said, adding that the academy “is a family.”

His daughter Mackenzie is a first grader. “Not only do my daughter’s teachers know her name, but other teachers do. All of the teachers look out for all of the kids,” he said.

Another parent, Astra Douglas, whose daughter Akas’a Lewis is a kindergarten student at Salve Regina, said the school was home for her daughter and she was looking forward to moving up to first grade. “I’m very disappointed it’s closing,” she said.

Douglas said she appreciated the small class sizes at the academy. “It gives the children room to grow. There are many other schools that have 30 children in a class. That’s not ideal for learning,” she explained.

De Jesus predicted that the absence of Salve Regina Catholic Academy will leave “a Catholic school desert” in East New York. 

“East New York is a big, wide area geographically. The closest Catholic academy to Salve Regina is Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy in Cypress Hills. Other than that, you have to go up to Bed-Stuy or up to Canarsie,” he explained.

Parents of students at St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Thérèse of Lisieux Catholic Academy were informed of the school’s fate via a letter from the board of trustees on May 1.

In the letter, the board pointed out that enrollment in 2014 was 319 students and that five years later in 2019, it had fallen to 199. This year, the academy had 151. “We recognize and are grateful for the efforts so many have made to keep our school afloat,” the letter read.

Like it had with Salve Regina, the diocese also provided St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Thérèse of Lisieux with monetary assistance, the board of trustees stated in its letter.

On April 15, parents were notified about plans to close St. Matthias Catholic Academy in Ridgewood.

Gregory J. Haufe, chairman of the board of trustees at St. Matthias, pointed out that enrollment dropped precipitously over the past 10 years — from 400 students in 2014 to 154 this year. 

Deacon McCormack expressed sympathy for the school communities now faced with the closures.

“These three schools, in the midst of this most difficult time, will focus on celebrating their students and preparing them for the next chapter in their education,” he stated.

2 thoughts on “Two More Catholic Academies To Close; Rising Costs, Falling Enrollments Make Keeping Schools Open Impossible, Educators Say

  1. Three Catholic schools in three weeks is unbearable. I was part of one of the last classes of Brooklyn Prep in 1971 and nearly every Catholic school that I knew in Brooklyn is now gone. We are practically eradicated in Brooklyn as a culture.

  2. Simple solution is to make one school out of the two Brooklyn schools!!
    St Catherine & Salve Regina can combine students into either of the two school buildings. So only one school would be closed and the other would have over 300 total students combined!! The schools are nearby in East NY & Flatbush so combining students into one school would not be bad for kids of either school.