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Queens has been closing and merging several Catholic schools, with at least three shuttered in the last two years, the Brooklyn Diocese said, underscoring an ongoing battle to boost enrollment figures.
College Point’s St. Fidelis School was the latest borough Catholic school to close, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, after it had a dip in enrollment from 242 students in 2007 to 144 last year. It was one of two schools throughout the Diocese to close this year, with the other closure at Saint Joseph and Dominic Catholic Academy in Brooklyn.
The Diocese did not return requests for comment on the recent closures.
St. Fidelis closed up for good at the end of June and did not reopen for the current academic year, which started in September. The superintendent of schools for the diocese also said its students were sent to neighboring parishes and its faculty interested in teaching elsewhere were placed on a priority list sent to other school principals.
St. Fidelis administrator Monsignor Dennis Heron did not return calls for comment.
The diocese also consolidated three schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens this year, including Flushing’s Most Holy Redeemer, which merged with nearby St. Michael’s.
Two other Catholic schools shut their doors by the end of the 2011-12 academic year, the diocese said, including Corpus Christi School in Woodside and St. Raphael’s School in Long Island City. Both schools cited rising debts and declining enrollment factoring into their decisions to shutter.
Corpus Christi Principal Robert DiNardo said the Woodside school faced a $73,000 deficit in 2012 at the same time enrollment numbers took a dip. The Rev. Jerry Jecewiz, a pastor at St. Raphael’s, said his school confronted a similar fate.
“We had agreed to a specific goal, strictly time-bound to last September , to raise the 160 student enrollment to 200,” he wrote in a letter to parents last year. “We needed to do so in order to combat the school deficit of $150,000 in the last fiscal year — a six-fold increase from the year before — and the projected deficit, which is fast approaching $200,000 in this present fiscal year.”
It was a trend seen throughout the nation, according to the National Catholic Educational Association, a private group of educators and institutions. The group released a statistical report this year detailing enrollment and staffing figures nationwide and found that numbers were down drastically.
Since 2000, a total of 2,090 schools — just more than 25 percent of all Catholic schools in the United States — closed or consolidated throughout the country, the report said. During that time, enrollment dropped by 651,298 students, or 24.5 percent, mostly affecting elementary schools.
In Queens, the most recent closures came as the diocese worked to implement several shifts in how it governs schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens, with several sites either merging or closing altogether.
Diocese Superintendent Thomas Chadzutko has rolled out a comprehensive plan over the next several years, geared toward bulking up marketing strategies to get more students in the seats and curb declining numbers. The plan included a revision of how the schools are governed, known as the academic model, which was instituted in 10 schools throughout the diocese this year alone, he said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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