ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. – May 10, 2011 – Faced with an unsustainably low enrollment commitment for the 2011-2012 school year and increasing indebtedness, Stella Maris Regional Catholic School will close permanently in June 2011.
For the 2011-2012 school year there are commitments for only forty-four students for kindergarten through grade eight, and nine students for nursery and pre-kindergarten. Since the enrollment in Nursery and Pre-K was being treated separately, the school has less than one half of the commitments needed to have a viable school. Five of the grades have three or fewer students enrolled for the coming year. This would not make for a healthy learning environment. Unfortunately, there is no way that a school can operate academically or financially with so few students.
After a year of working closely with the Diocesan Education and Finance Offices, the pastors of the supporting parishes had an open meeting with parents in April. The purpose was to explain the situation and present a diocesan plan for an austerity budget for the coming school year. This austerity plan was based on the 102 students (grades K-8) who had already registered for the coming year. Sister Joanne Callahan, superintendent of schools, Diocese of Rockville Centre had another meeting with parents during Holy Week to reinforce the need for 102 students to make the school viable for the short term. She asked parents to make a commitment to send their children to the school in the coming year as well as to help with the financial situation. These commitments were due by May 2, 2011. Further, Sr. Joanne made herself available for individual parent meetings on May 3 and 4, thus extending the deadline.
On May 4, the pastors, Sr. Joanne and Bishop Peter Libasci, Episcopal vicar for the Eastern Vicariate met and reviewed the enrollment commitments. It became clear that the school would not be sustainable financially and with the small enrollment, would not be a healthy learning environment.
“As we are in the process of accepting a strategic plan for elementary schools in the Diocese in September, I am sorry that this has happened and wished parents had chosen to stay at Stella Maris,” said Bishop William Murphy, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. “It was my hope that this would have given us time to look at the possibilities for the future of Catholic education in the east end of Long Island, including Stella Maris. While this will not be possible, we will continue to look at the future of Catholic education in the east end of Long Island as part of our strategic plan.”
“I want to thank the administration, faculty, parents and students for their commitment to the school and recognize that this decision is a sad one for the school community. This is the oldest Catholic school in the Diocese. Saint Andrew Parish School was founded by the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1877.”
“I am very sad to see Stella Maris close,” said Sr. Joanne. “I wanted with all my heart for this the oldest school in our diocese to continue. But, I am also responsible, as are the pastors, not to increase the debt. The austerity budget scenario would have worked and I’m so grateful to the parents who did step forward by making enrollment and financial commitments to the school during these times of challenge, but the number of commitments we received make the continuation of Stella Maris impossible.”
About The Diocese of Rockville Centre
The Diocese of Rockville Centre (www.drvc.org) was formed in 1957 and covers 1,198 square miles in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The diocese serves approximately 1.5 million Catholics (total population in both counties is approximately 3.4 million). There are 134 parishes (1 campus parish) in 115 towns. In 2009, nearly 16,702 baptisms, 16,900 confirmations, 17,537 first communions and 3,402 marriages took place in the diocese. There are 19,261 students in Catholic elementary schools; 12,595 in Catholic high schools and 3,500 in higher institutions. There are 55 Catholic elementary schools (51 parish or regional and 4 private), 10 high schools (3 diocesan and 8 private) and one Catholic college in the diocese. Catholic Health Services of Long Island consists of six hospitals, three nursing homes, a community-based home for those with special needs and a hospice. In 2008, Catholic Charities assisted more than 55,485 individuals who are poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged on Long Island. (12/10).
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