A dwindling enrollment and decreased funding are forcing the Archdiocese of New York to close 22 of its Catholic elementary schools and two Catholic high schools, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The closures will affect about 9 percent of the elementary schools’ enrollment and more than 4,700 students total, officials said.
In addition, the Diocese of Brooklyn, which also covers Queens, is closing one school: the K-8 St. Fidelis School in College Point. No schools in Brooklyn are slated for closure, according to a news release from the Diocese of Brooklyn.
"Enrollment statistics indicate that in the current school year, St. Fidelis has 144 students in kindergarten to eighth-grade. It represents a decline since five years earlier when 242 students attended the school, which opened in 1857," the Diocese of Brooklyn said in the release.
"It's painful to go through this exercise," said Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York. "These parents love these schools, and it's hard to have to tell them that 100 years of tradition at that community is now not going to [continue]."
McNiff said the closures are necessary for the long-term viability of the school system, which has watched enrollment decline by more than 25,000 students since 2003.
But McNiff says the closings are a part of a multi-year plan that will group schools into a series of districts, taxing parishes, and sell or lease the remaining properties.
The Archdiocese also is pursuing other revenue strategies, such as a voucher program out of Albany that would allow businesses to get tax credits for providing scholarships, as well as an addition $30 million in funding it says Albany owes it in reimbursements for certain state requirements, such as administering state tests and reporting student data, reported the paper.
McNiff said if their game plan works and is successful, they hope to completely stem any future school closures.
"We have a game plan where we can hold the line and sustain these schools going forward," he said. "Can we give absolute guarantees? No."