BY JACLYN JEFFREY-WILENSKY
After years of low enrollment and budget deficits in the hundreds of thousands, two Queens Catholic K-8 schools will shut down this June, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said.
In a March 10 statement, the diocese announced the closure of Our Lady of Angelus Catholic Academy in Rego Park and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Academy in Queens Village at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Citing “changing demographics,” the diocese explained that both schools had seen sharp decreases in enrollment in recent years.
At Our Lady of Angelus, enrollment dropped from 226 students in 2012 to 130 in 2017, according to the diocese.
“That nearly 50 percent drop has led to a budget deficit that will reach $444,299 by June,” diocese spokeswoman Carolyn Erstad said.
Our Lady of Lourdes also saw a steep decline in enrollment as well as a $219,000 budget deficit, $120,000 in unpaid tuition and approximately $1.5 million of desperately needed building repairs, Erstad said.
“While the cost of educating a child exceeds $6,000 per year, the tuition for one child is just $4,450,” Our Lady of Lourdes wrote in a letter to parents that was dated February 28. “Even with significant additional fundraising efforts from our shrinking team of families, the academy does not have the means to continue subsidizing tuition.”
According to published reports, some Our Lady of Angelus parents received the 2018-2019 tuition paperwork just days before the diocese announced the closures. They were told about the closures during a March 8 meeting on “the future of the academy,” parents and the diocese said.
“A lot of parents were surprised,” said Elizabeth Hunter, whose eighth-grade daughter is a member of Our Lady of Angelus’s last-ever graduating class. “It’s a disappointment that we weren’t told this was a possibility back when we could do something about it.”
Hunter added that rumors about the closure had been circulating in the weeks leading up to the meeting after another parent claimed that the land had been sold and that the school’s field could no longer be used for soccer.
At the March 8 meeting at Our Lady of Angelus, during which the closure was announced, Catholic education options for after the school’s closure were also discussed. Our Lady of Lourdes parents were scheduled to have a similar meeting on March 14.
According to the diocese, nearby Catholic schools have offered admission to students displaced by the closures, and students will be given a $500 tuition-assistance grant if they enroll at a Brooklyn Diocese Catholic School.
Our Lady of Angelus and Our Lady of Lourdes aren’t the only Queens Catholic schools set to close at the end of this school year. The diocese announced the closure of both St. Pancras School in Glendale and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy’s Bayside campus in January.