BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
After 60 years in the neighborhood, Astoria’s Most Precious Blood Catholic School will close in June due to overwhelming costs, school officials have announced.
Parents were shocked to learn of the closure last week, when the Rev. William Krlis sent out a letter stating that necessary repairs in both the school and church buildings estimated at $5.5 million, alongside “precipitously” declining school enrollment, required the school’s closure.
“This work cannot be done while the school building is occupied on a full-time basis. While financially we have not run deficits, these essential building repairs, combined with declining enrollment, will not allow us to continue,” Krlis wrote.
Krlis said enrollment is down 20 students from last year alone, to 191 students. Enrollment was at 300 seven years ago and has since been on the decline, according to Stefanie Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn, which heads a network of parishes and Catholic schools that includes Most Precious Blood.
However, parents contend that this count is misleading, as it excludes more than 100 nursery and Universal Pre-K students.
Gutierrez responded that the K-8 count represents the most accurate measure of the school’s viability, due to low retention rates of nursery and UPK students.
Since Krlis’ announcement, parents have taken to social media to express their outrage and galvanize a response.
As of press time, a “Save Most Precious Blood School” Facebook group had almost 300 members, and a change.org petition to keep the school had garnered 2,100 signatures.
Lissette Paz, one of the parent-organizers behind the push to save the school, said she was in “total shock” after hearing of the closure.
“Why not come to us and say, ‘listen, our school is in need, we need this, we need that, we need to fundraise?’ Give us another option,” she said.
“I hope that they will reconsider. I hope that they will hear the public outcry,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said.
“I was very saddened to hear that they decided to make this decision without any local input,” he added. “They have not engaged the community to try to help fundraise, try to help find other ways to find the money… there could have been some sort of efforts done that are just not done yet.”
A parent meeting to address this decision is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.