Parents, Specifically In The 5 Boroughs, Not Buying The Reasoning Given

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Archdiocese of New York has decided to close 22 elementary schools and two high schools that have been deemed financially “at risk.”

The decision came despite heated protests from parents and students at the schools.

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The Archdiocese announced Tuesday that only four of the 26 “at-risk” elementary schools identified in November will remain open, and decisions have been deferred about two additional schools on Staten Island that were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

The remaining 22 elementary schools and two high schools will close in June, after the current school year ends.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, the Archdiocese said it needed to close a $24 million budget gap, and needed to have all its schools on a sound financial footing.

“We do have to have a better business model,” said Archdiocese Schools Supt. Dr. Timothy McNiff. “There’s payrolls to be met for 7,000 teaches, there’s utility bills to be paid, and maintenance on buildings, and we have expenses just like everybody else.”

Each of the schools was awarded a chance to plead its case for staying open, and present a financial survival plan, before the final decision is made.

The Archdiocese said the decision followed a “painstaking, months-long review” in accordance with the “Pathways to Excellence” strategic plan for Catholic schools that was released in October 2010.

“This review included all relevant data, including enrollment, financial, academic and local demographics, to ensure the Board’s and Committee’s decisions would result in financially healthy, sustainable schools,” the Archdiocese said.

The schools slated for closing in New York City are:

• Annunciation School, 461 W. 131st St., Manhattan;
• Holy Cross School, 332 W. 43rd St., Manhattan
• Holy Name of Jesus School, 202 W. 97th St., Manhattan;
• St. James-St. Joseph Elementary School, 1 Monroe St., Manhattan;
• St. Jude School, 433 W. 204th St., Manhattan;
• Holy Spirit School, 1940 University Ave., The Bronx;
• Our Lady of Angels School, 2865 Claflin Ave., The Bronx;
• Our Lady of Mercy School, 2512 Marion Ave., The Bronx;
• St. Jerome School, 222 Alexander Ave., The Bronx;
• Blessed Sacrament School, 1160 Beach Ave, The Bronx;
• St. Anthony School, 1776 Mansion St., The Bronx;
• St. Mary Star of the Sea School, 580 Minneford Ave., The Bronx;

The schools slated for closing outside the city are:

• Holy Name of Jesus School, 2 Broadway, Valhalla;
• Our Lady of Fatima School, 963 Scarsdale Rd., Scarsdale;
• St. Casimir School, 259 Nepperhan Ave., Yonkers;
• Our Lady of the Assumption School, 920 First St., Peekskill;
• St. Theresa School, 300 Dalmeny Rd., Briarcliff Manor;
• St. Augustine School, 114 S. Main St., New City;
• St. Peter School, 21 Ridge St., Haverstraw;
• St. Joseph School, 242 Wall St., Kingston;
• St. Mary of the Snow School, 25 Cedar St., Saugerties.

St. Agnes Boys High School, 555 West End Ave. in Manhattan, and Blessed Sacrament-St. Gabriel High School, 24 Shea Pl. in New Rochelle, will also close.

St. Gregory the Great School in Manhattan, St. Mary School in the Bronx, Sacred Heart School in Newburgh, and Regina Coeli in Hyde Park will remain open.

A total of 4,341 students, or almost 9 percent of Catholic school students in the affected areas will be affected, the Archdiocese said.

Affected families are welcome to attend neighboring Catholic schools, and the Archdiocese will make an effort to help any affected families facing financial challenges in transferring their children.

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But regardless of what the Archdiocese may offer, students were crestfallen at the news Monday.

“I felt sad because St. Augustine is like my second home,” said Alexandra Forlini, a fourth grader at St. Augustine School in New City. “I love St. Augustine a lot.”

Alexandra and her classmates could not believe the school will be closing for good.

“It’s sad that it’s closing, because we’ve been here a long time, and all my friends are here,” added St. Augustine sixth grader Samantha Dari.

Parents were no happier about the decision.

“It gets me upset,” said St. Augustine parent Rocco Fiore. “Because, you know, they make these decisions. They don’t come to the school. They don’t feel what they feel.”

They also criticized the methods the Archdiocese used to decide which schools would close.

“The Archdiocese promised a process that would be transparent, collaborative and objective,” said St. Augustine Home School President Bethann Rooney.

“What message are you sending about faith, and future, and family? What message are you sending to our children? What are you telling them if you’re closing their schools one by one?”

McNiff said the schools that close can be rented out – raising more money.

In the meantime, James Fiore, 11, will be looking for a new place to shoot hoops, as his school gym will be gone.

“I come here every morning,” he said. “It’s sad.”

At St. Jerome School in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, parents have been protesting vehemently against the Archdiocese plan for months. The parents said the school is a second home for their kids, and a lifeblood of the community.

One parent, Kelvin Ramirez, did not buy the argument that the Archdiocese needed to close schools as a budget measure.

“They definitely have money to renovate St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so the money is there. They have money for what they want to implement,” Ramirez said. “They just don’t want to put it into inner-city communities.”

Parents have also accused Archdiocese of threatening to close the financially struggling school so it can make money off the real estate. But the Archdiocese denied that claim.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to pass the Education Investment Incentives Act, which would award $150 million in scholarships for families to enroll their children in Catholic, and other private and parochial, schools.

The Archdiocese said this will be the last round of large school closings.

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Do you think closing the schools is the right decision? Leave your comments below…