Our Lady of Lourdes School on Toomey Road in West...

Our Lady of Lourdes School on Toomey Road in West Islip on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

The Diocese of Rockville Centre is closing a Catholic grammar school in West Islip because of declining enrollment.

At Our Lady of Lourdes School, enrollment from nursery school through eighth grade had plunged from 206 in June to 47 for the coming semester, the diocese said Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened at the closing,” the diocese said in a statement. “It is a great loss for the students and parents, as well as the teachers and administrators who have served the school so faithfully."

The diocese said the “unexpected and precipitous drop in enrollment . . . makes the goal of providing a quality education to nurture and develop students academically, emotionally and spiritually, unsustainable.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead closed in June, and two Catholic elementary schools on the East End are being merged into one this fall. Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue and St. Isadore School in Riverhead will become one school, to be located on the St. Isadore site and to be called St. John Paul II Regional School.

“Catholic education is critical to the life of the church and to the communities we serve,” the diocese's statement said.  “We are committed to our larger, long-term vision to advance Catholic education and Catholic life on Long Island, with financially strong schools that maintain the highest standards of academic excellence and nurture the spiritual growth of our students and school communities.”

The diocese said it was sending out information about other nearby Catholic schools to the parents of children enrolled in Our Lady of Lourdes. 

In a letter sent to parents, Msgr. Brian McNamara, the pastor of the parish, said, “I realize that this is a great loss for each of you. It is a great loss for me as well.”

“Our goal has always been to provide a quality education, and to nurture and develop your child academically, emotionally and spiritually,” he wrote.  “Unfortunately, with the unexpected decline in enrollment, it was simply no longer possible for us to continue to deliver on this goal."

The East End closing and merger were the first major shake-up in the Catholic school system since the diocese announced the closing of six elementary schools in December 2011.

McGann-Mercy had received millions of dollars in subsidies over the last decade and had only 55 students registered for the incoming freshman class, Bishop John Barres said in March in announcing the closing.

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