12 Hudson Valley Catholic schools fight for survival

St. Augustine School in New City is among

St. Augustine School in New City is among 12 area Catholic schools that might close at the end of the school year. (Nov. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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Twelve Hudson Valley Catholic schools have a little more than a month to fight for survival.

"It ain't over 'til it's over," said Msgr. Hugh McManus, of Scarsdale's Church of Our Lady of Fatima, whose parish school is one of those at risk.

The 12 were included on a list of 26 schools that the Archdiocese of New York may close by June of next year. The list was released Monday evening, with the explanation that schools will be closed to stem financial losses. The 12 Hudson Valley schools serve 2,155 students.

The schools have until January to develop a long-term financial plan to convince the archdiocese they can remain open.

"That's what keeping us going," McManus said.

The second round of closures in two years stems from a lack of revenue and declining enrollment. Throughout the archdiocese, enrollment has declined 6 percent since 2010-11. The archdiocese closed 14 Hudson Valley schools in 2011. Should all 12 of the schools now in jeopardy be closed, the archdiocese will have closed about a third of the Catholic schools that were operating in the valley in 2010.

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"The archdiocese has been subsidizing these schools with millions and millions of dollars each year, and we can't afford to do that indefinitely," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "If we continue along this path, pretty soon the whole system could collapse."

The list of schools in jeopardy was put together by committees that analyzed school operations and the financial health of schools throughout the archdiocese, which encompasses 10 New York State counties in and around New York City. Among the committee members was Msgr. John Ferry of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Scarsdale.

"Nobody wants to see the number of schools reduced, but it may be necessary in order to make the system as a whole stronger," Ferry said.

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The archdiocese is forming regional boards that will manage the finances of parish schools starting next year. Each parish will contribute to funding regional schools -- whether it operates a school or not.

On Tuesday, students at Newburgh's Sacred Heart School -- one of the 12 in jeopardy -- were happily playing ball in the gym, proudly wearing their maroon school polo shirts and showing no signs of worry. Principal Mary Anne McGivney declined to comment on the closures but said the school will muster a plan to convince the committee that it should stay open.

Luis Medina, a father of a sixth-grader at the school, said he was disappointed by the news that the school was at risk.

"A lot of kids are going to be disappointed," Medina said.

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