The diocese may close Our Lady of Lourdes school in...

The diocese may close Our Lady of Lourdes school in Massapequa Park. (April 6, 2010) Credit: J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For the second time this year, the Diocese of Rockville Centre has announced a Catholic elementary school will close.

The shutdown of Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Massapequa Park - along with the earlier announced closing of Corpus Christi Elementary School in Mineola - comes after a five-year stretch in which the diocese bucked a national trend and avoided shuttering any elementary schools.

"It is always sad when a Catholic school has to close," said Sister Joanne Callahan, the diocese's superintendent of schools. "But projected enrollment at Our Lady of Lourdes made it educationally and financially impossible for the school to continue."

Church officials said just 77 students have registered for classes in the fall, compared to the current enrollment of 168. They said enrollment had roughly dropped by half since 2000 when it was 349.

The announcement that the school will close in June comes amid general fiscal troubles for the diocese, which is implementing a voluntary buyout package for hundreds of employees. About 500 of 1,800 affected employees accepted the package by the deadline late last month, according to diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan.

He said the closing of the school in Massapequa Park was unrelated to the diocese's general financial situation and was due simply to slipping enrollment.

Some 100 of 133 parishes in the diocese are expected to lose money this year.

Dolan said the diocese does not expect any more school closings this year, although it is monitoring all schools and could not completely rule out the possibility. "I don't anticipate any further announcements this year, but it's all in the numbers," he said.

Church officials said Our Lady of Lourdes parish provided $354,366 in subsidies this year - or 43 percent of the school's budget - to keep it operating.

One parishioner, Julie Collorafi, criticized the pastor, Msgr. James Lisante, for hiring several new employees to help run the parish during his absences, saying that money could have been used to keep the school open.

Lisante did not respond to messages seeking comment. Dolan said he was unfamiliar with the hires, but the main reason the school closed was declining enrollment.

He said he believed the numbers had dropped at both schools for various reasons, including most recently the general economic recession. He added that no schools had closed for five years in part because of the Tomorrow's Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit that provides scholarships to students at Catholic elementary schools in the diocese.

Latest videos

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months