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Baldwin's St. Christopher School closing for good in June, diocese says

The Catholic grammar school at the Church of

The Catholic grammar school at the Church of St Christopher in Baldwin will close in June, said a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Credit: Google Maps

A Catholic grammar school in Baldwin will close in June, church officials said Monday, the second time in a week the Diocese of Rockville Centre has announced campuses shutting down partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Christopher School will shut its doors for good at the end of this academic year after nearly a century of operating in Baldwin, said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese. St. Raymond School in East Rockaway and St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hempstead are also closing in June, the diocese announced last week.

The closing of St. Christopher will bring to seven the number of Catholic grammar schools shutting on Long Island amid the pandemic. Four others were closed last June.

"Announcing this closing in addition to the announcements we made last week relating to the closing of Saint Thomas the Apostle and Saint Raymond’s is very, very sad," Dolan said in a statement.

The latest closing mirrored the circumstances of the previous six, Dolan said: Declining enrollment and revenues over years, and then the final blow, the pandemic, which caused donations at Masses to plummet and cut deeply into subsidies parishes provided to the schools.

Enrollment at St. Christopher, a nursery through eighth grade school, declined 41% from 2015 to September 2020, Dolan said, leaving it with 179 students.

While the parish "has made significant efforts to manage costs, the continued operations of the school require over $350,000 per year in subsidy support," Dolan said.

Parents at St. Raymond and St. Thomas, angry and saddened over those closings, have banded together to try to save the schools. But Dolan said the decision to close is final.

St. Christopher was founded in 1925 and staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"The school provided an excellent learning experience both digitally and in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic," Dolan said. "However, operating in this environment exacerbated the financial challenges faced by the parish and the school. Given these pressures, Saint Christopher’s parish is no longer able to support school operations."

Students from all three schools that are closing can automatically enroll in other Catholic schools.

The three latest closings will leave the diocese with 32 grammar schools in Nassau and Suffolk, compared to 53 a couple decades ago. In the 1960s, the diocese had 92.

Dolan said the closing in Baldwin was not announced last week because the pastor of the parish had been weighing a final decision.

He also said the closings were unrelated to the diocese’s decision to file for bankruptcy last year amid mounting costs from child sex abuse cases related to New York State’s Child Victims Act.

The law opened a window for people who were sexually abused as children by priests or anyone else to file lawsuits regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

"The sad truth is that these schools already suffer from low enrollment and high reliance on parish subsidies which has been exacerbated by COVID-19," Dolan said. "Additionally, the school is a ministry of the legal entity (St. Christopher Parish) incorporated independently of the Diocese; therefore it is not directly involved in the Chapter 11 filing by the Diocese."

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