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Diocese of Buffalo Announces Closure of 10 Catholic Schools

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - The Diocese of Buffalo today announced the closure of 10 area Catholic Schools as part of their revitalization plan.

The schools slated to close at the end of this year are:
  • Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, Elma [102 students (K-8); 18 faculty and staff]
  • Fourteen Holy Helpers School, West Seneca [136 students (K-8); 20 faculty and staff]
  • Our Lady of Pompeii School, Lancaster [70 students (K-8), 14 faculty and staff]
  • Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, Orchard Park [135 students (K-8); 24 faculty and staff]
  • St. Bernadette School, Orchard Park [148 students (K-8); 22 faculty and staff]
  • St. Francis of Assisi School, Tonawanda [152 students (K-8); 19 faculty and staff]
  • St. Joseph School, Gowanda [42 students (K-8); 16 faculty and staff]
  • St. Leo the Great School, Amherst [99 students (K-8); 24 faculty and staff]
  • St. Mary of the Lake School, Hamburg [122 students (K-8); 23 faculty and staff]
  • St. Vincent de Paul School, Spring Brook [148 students (K-8); 15 faculty and staff]
Bishop Richard J. Malone, Bishop of Buffalo, said the diocese and The BISON Fund are collaborating on a plan to fund new scholarships for students who have applied to transfer out of low performing Buffalo elementary schools. "We are involved in preliminary discussions with the BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund regarding a scholarship program which could potentially increase Catholic school enrollment and positively affect the future of our elementary schools."

"Regarding the school closures, this will be a difficult decision for many to accept, but these reductions are necessary and will allow us to sustain and eventually strengthen our remaining Catholic elementary schools," Bishop Malone said. "This is an important responsibility I bear as bishop. I am grateful to the Catholic School Advisory Council, pastors, principals and other lay advisors who spent a tremendous amount of time and effort during this planning effort."

The school closures will impact approximately 195 teachers and staff. The Diocese says that some of the teachers may choose to retire, while others may be re-hired to work at other schools if added enrollment allows them to hire additional teachers at the schools that remain open.

"I encourage families of closing schools to enroll in any other Catholic school, while remaining members of their current parishes. They will continue to qualify for the parishioner tuition rate at a school in another parish," Bishop Malone said. "We are not alone in this situation. Not a single public school district in Western New York is growing enrollment."

The Diocese says that schools remaining open will be upgrading equipment, adding programs, and involving more people in the governance of schools.

"Throughout the entire planning process, the issue of Catholic identity was paramount," said Carol Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic Education for the diocese. "Parents who entrust their children to Catholic schools should expect that their children will receive a quality Catholic education imbued with Gospel values of faith, justice and charity. The results of this process included a renewed dedication of clergy, the enhanced sense of partnership between pastors and principals, and the strengthening of Catholic identity and culture of the schools."

"Our elementary schools will be in a position to focus even more on Catholic identity and academics," said Sister Carol Cimino, SSJ, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese. "What we call STREAM: Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math, will become the focal point of our curriculum. STREAM will engage students at an early age in the study of robotics, architecture, space exploration, technical design and other subjects, all encompassed by a foundation based on faith and values."

The diocese says schools will work with their teachers or the union representing the teachers, where applicable, regarding the effects of the decision on staffing. The diocesan Departments of Catholic Schools and Human Resources will also be available to assist in the process with possible placement in other Catholic schools.

The diocese sent out a letter sent to parents whose children's schools will stay open.

Last year, Cimino talked about the "next step" in a three-year strategic plan for Catholic elementary schools that began in 2011. The plan, called "Faith in Tomorrow," calls for the Diocese to address finances and school governance.

The Diocese's plan calls for schools to maintain a sustainable model of 400 students per school with two classrooms per grade in grades Pre-K through eight.

The Diocese released this statement regarding school closures last year:

For the past decade, the number of Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo has been reduced due to declining enrollment, the result of out-migration from Western New York. That trend has continued, and thus, part of this revitalization process will include school consolidations.

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