For Release :
Eight Newark Archdiocese Schools to Close at End of School Year
One to Reopen as an Early Childhood Program Only
The Archdiocese of Newark today announced that seven of its schools – six elementary schools and one high school – will close at the conclusion of this current school year on June 30. Another elementary school will close its Grade 1 – 8 program and reopen as an early childhood program serving students in grades Pre-K2 through Kindergarten.
The decision to close these schools followed many months of evaluation by the Archdiocesan Schools Office and conversations with the individual school and parish administrations. The criteria for the decision were a combination of steadily declining enrollments in each of the schools and an inability of each to meet even its most basic financial obligations – everything from books, electricity and heat, to salaries, health insurance coverage and pension contributions for its staff -- without significant subsidies from the Archdiocese. On average, the Archdiocese had provided an annual subsidy of between $100,000 and $200,000 to meet basic operating costs at each school.
“This is a truly sad moment for the children, families and communities that these schools have served through the years,” said Rev. Msgr. Kevin M. Hanbury, Ed.D., Vicar for Education and Superintendent of Schools. “We know that each school sought to fill a critical need in its community for an excellent education choice. While the parents chose to send their children to these schools, the programs were not able to reach self-sufficiency without resorting to a major increase in per student tuition. Such a hike, in each case, would have placed this school beyond the financial reach of most families.
“At the same time,” Msgr. Hanbury continued, “the Archdiocese is no longer able to continue these large annual subsidies without seriously curtailing other important ministries.”
Pastors and principals at each of the schools learned of the decision in meetings with Archdiocesan Schools staff in late January/early February, and the Archbishop provided a formal notice of the closures by mail in early February. Faculty, staff, parents and children learned shortly afterward through letters from or meetings with principals and pastors.
In Bergen County, Assumption Academy in Emerson will close its Grade 1-8 program and operate solely as an early childhood program serving students from grades Pre-K 2 to Kindergarten. Enrollment at Assumption Academy’s K-8 program had fallen from 157 to 137 between 2011 and 2012. During the 2008 school year, enrollment at Assumption Academy had been 171.
In Essex County, three schools – St. Leo/Sacred Heart Interparochial in Irvington, Queen of Angels in Newark, and St. John in Orange – will close. K-8 enrollment at St. Leo/Sacred Heart had fallen between 2011 and 2012 from 170 to 135; in the 2008 school year, enrollment had reached 193. Similarly, K-8 enrollment at Queen of Angels had fallen from 156 in 2011 to 132 in 2012, and from 164 in 2008. St. John in Orange saw a drop in K-8 students from 170 to 142 between 2011 and 2012, and from 203 in 2008.
In Hudson County, St. Anne School in Jersey City and Mater Dei Academy in Kearny will close. K-8 enrollment at St. Anne fell from 183 to 145 between 2011 and 2012, and from 180 in 2008. Mater Dei Academy, which opened only in 2009 following a merger of St. Stephen’s School in Kearny and Holy Cross School in Harrison, suffered a K-8 enrollment drop from 250 in 2009 to 170 in its three years.
Union County’s St. Patrick’s High School and Academy in Elizabeth and Hillside Catholic Academy in Hillside will close. Enrollment at St. Patrick, which conducted not only a four-year high school program but also a middle school prep program, had fallen from 180 to 151 between 2011 and 2012, and from 262 in 2008. And while K-8 enrollment at Hillside Catholic saw only a slight decline between 2011 and 2012 – from 159 to 153 – the downward trend in enrollment had been steady since its second year in operation, 2006, when enrollment peaked at 256.
The move to close these eight Archdiocesan schools comes at a time when a special Catholic Education Commission has been meeting for several months to develop a roadmap to ensure the long-term viability and affordability of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese.
Although the Commission’s report and recommendations will be presented to the Archbishop at the end of February, these eight schools were not included in the planning for the future because of their extreme financial and enrollment situations.
The decision to close the eight schools also was made at a time when discussions and conversations, but no action, continue throughout the state and in both government and legislative circles about school choice. One such possibility that would assist nonpublic schools such as Catholic schools in the Archdiocese is the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA), a proposed bill that would offer tax credits to businesses that contribute to a scholarship fund to enable children in certain districts with failing schools to attend either nonpublic schools or public schools that are not failing.
Although only two schools set to close in the Archdiocese are within districts that would be considered eligible under the current version of the OSA – Queen of Angels in Newark and St. John in Orange -- all nonpublic schools could be deemed eligible to receive students under the OSA.
“While many in both houses of the state Legislature would welcome the OSA as a way to improve education for at-risk children and provide true school choice to parents living in districts with failing schools,” said James Goodness, director of Communications of the Archdiocese, “special interests have kept the OSA from a vote on the Assembly or Senate floor.
“Should it happen that the families of the 1165 children affected by these closures can no longer afford a Catholic school choice, the combined tax burden to the towns and cities where these families live will be increased by some $21 million, based on an estimated average per student cost of public education in New Jersey of $18,000. That certainly helps no one.”
In the coming weeks, the Archdiocesan Schools Office will be conducting open houses at each of the schools set to close to introduce students and parents to other Catholic schools within the Archdiocese that are viable long-term options for these students for the 2012-2013 school year, and to facilitate the transfer of these students.