St. Michael School in Newark will close for good following a decision by the Diocese of Rochester due to declining enrollment and increasing expenses.
Despite efforts to raise funds and increase enrollment, the Diocese of Rochester Catholic School Board Bishop Clark decided to close St. Michael School in Newark at the end of the current academic year.
School officials did not return calls for comment, but issued a statement regarding the annoucement made last Thursday.
“This decision was not made lightly and comes after careful consideration and much prayer,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, despite all of their efforts, the steady decline in enrollment has continued over the last several years. The parish can no longer continue to incur considerable debt to operate the school. We believe strongly in the virtues of a Catholic education and will continue to do all we can to support the remaining schools across the Diocese of Rochester.”
Faced with declining enrollment and faced with the possibility of closure after 57 years of operation, school members came together in a last ditch effort to save it. School officials have met with the Diocese of Rochester to discuss the possibilities for the 2011-12 school year. It was decided the budget for next year would be written as though the school has 95 students. However, that would leave an operating loss for the coming school year of $130,000. Every student who was enrolled above and beyond 95 equates to a reduction of that anticipated loss.
As of May 25, the school had 93 of the needed 95 students to make their goal, and a total of $103,505.09 in cash and pledges supplemented by cash reserves brought the school to $131,000 — $1,000 above the goal the Diocese set.
“We were heartened to see the strong community support that St. Michael received in its effort to stay open and viable,” the school’s statement read.
St. Michael School isn’t the only Catholic school feeling the crunch, parochial schools nationwide are also facing challenges when it comes to making ends meet.
St. Mary’s Principal Ann Marie Deutsch, a school that continues to do well in these tough economic times, said Catholic schools in the region support one another and while consolidations aren’t generally done in rural areas, other methods help them cope. In the Finger Lakes region, both public and Catholics schools cooperate to transport students, she said.
Not long ago, DeSales Catholic High School in Geneva faced a financial crisis. A year ago, just shy of its 100th anniversary, the school was in such dire financial straits that a $400,000 operating deficit threatened its survival.
Unlike public schools, Catholic schools like DeSales do not receive property tax revenue and instead rely on tuition and local benefactors.
Thanks to an aggressive campaign to save the school, which included raising the necessary funds, DeSales is staying open and thriving.
Jack Gallagher, DeSales development director, and Susan Jones, the school’s grant coordinator, announced this month that DeSales is not only in the black — it has a surplus. The pair attributed the successful comeback to a number of factors including the school’s leadership, teachers and community support.
“Instead of the “D” word,” Gallagher and Jones said in a letter, referring to past deficits, “we prefer to think about hope, abundance, joy and bounty ... and yes, faith.”
St. Michael School will close its door for good at the end of the school year this June.