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Diocese of Rockville Centre planning dual-language school on 2 campuses

Our Lady of Providence Regional School in Central

Our Lady of Providence Regional School in Central Islip. Credit: Brittany Wait

Amid recent Catholic school closures, the Diocese of Rockville Centre is planning to offer a new school on two campuses for dual-language immersion and look, in part, to attract Hispanic families.

The diocese said it will form the nursery-through-eighth-grade school, combining two facilities that had served as schools in Deer Park and Central Islip — and overseen by the Marianist Brothers, who run respected schools such as Chaminade High School.

The new Our Lady of Guadalupe School will include extended hours to help focus on math and reading skills, extensive after-school programs, and a dual-language program in which students should become fluent in both English and Spanish, said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese.

The diocese also announced it is enhancing a school in Valley Stream that will accept students from three schools that are closing in June in East Rockaway, West Hempstead and Baldwin.

The moves come after the decision to shut down seven grammar schools in the last year, prompting protests by parents.

"As a Diocese, we have recognized the need to strengthen our offerings for a growing population of Hispanic Catholic families in Suffolk County, specifically in the areas of Central Islip, Brentwood and Deer Park," Bishop John Barres said in a statement.

"We also recognize the unique value that a diverse learning environment offers all of our families and we are excited to bring our communities together," he said.

The dual-campus school is named after the patron saint of Mexico. It will involve Ss. Cyril and Methodius School building in Deer Park, which will become known as Our Lady of Guadalupe West. The other school, Our Lady of Providence Regional School in Central Islip, will become Our Lady of Guadalupe East.

The west campus eventually will be a middle school for grades five through eight for students from both areas. The east campus will serve as a lower school for students kindergarten through grade four from both areas. Each campus will maintain nursery and prekindergarten programs into the future.

The middle school will go into effect this September, with the Central Islip school students in grades five through eight transferring over. By fall 2022, after some renovations, the east campus will be entirely kindergarten through fourth grade, with the students in that age group transferring over from the Deer Park school.

"Our goal is to grow both campuses of Our Lady of Guadalupe to fully utilize building capacity," said Denise Smith, interim superintendent of education for the diocese.

Dolan said the new school will "provide a new and exciting opportunity for both English- and Spanish-speaking families, who will benefit from a dynamic learning environment which improves critical thinking skills and boosts social and emotional well-being of students."

Hispanics make up a growing portion of Long Island's Catholic population, by some estimates accounting for at least 30% of Catholics.

In dual-language programs, the school day typically is split between English and Spanish instruction, mixing students from both backgrounds with the goal they become bilingual by the time they graduate. The program will start at the nursery level.

Dolan said the new dual-campus model was spurred partly by enrollment declines and financial pressures at the two schools. The school will have new leadership, new governance and serve "a pilot for a new approach to Catholic elementary school education."

The diocese said it was also moving to increase oversight, strategic planning, and academic and operational support at Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream, which will accept students from St. Raymond Catholic School in East Rockaway, St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead and St. Christopher's in Baldwin. Those three schools will be closing in June.

The church will institute "a new governance model" at Holy Name of Mary "to achieve bold spiritual, moral, cultural, and academic growth as it expands where many of the students from the two schools that are closing are expected to enroll," Dolan said.

The school will receive support from the parish, the diocese and the Morning Star Initiative, an effort spearheaded by the Marianist Brothers to revitalize Catholic grammar schools on Long Island.

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