By Adam Pincus
“They have all this money,” he said last Thursday as he waited for his first-grade daughter Nikita to appear from the school at 41-12 44th St. “It seems to me money is their only interest. They say they want people in the churches, but they are losing a lot by closing the schools.”Three Queens Catholic schools closed last week: Queen of Angels, St. Theresa's School in Woodside and Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Astoria, ending a tumultuous period for the schools, and beginning a period of uncertainty for the former students, parents, employees, and the buildings themselves.The Diocese announced earlier this year that nine Queens and 17 Brooklyn schools would close at the end of this school year, citing sagging enrollment numbers and financial shortfalls at the institutions due in part to changing demographics. Four of those schools were later given a reprieve, including two in Queens, after the Diocese accepted business plans they presented. Frank DeRosa, the Diocese spokesman, said that about 250 jobs were lost in the Brooklyn Diocese through the closures. He said the Diocese Office of Support Services was “working to place teachers wherever possible in Catholic schools.”He said the Diocese had made no decisions yet on what would happen to the buildings, although he said the New York City Board of Education has inquired about several of the buildings for public schools.Four additional Queens schools are shutting their doors for good this year: Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians School in Woodside, St. Pius X in Rosedale, Holy Cross School in Maspeth and Ascension School in Elmhurst. A school employee at Queen of Angels recalled last Thursday that about two years ago representatives from the Diocese came and spoke with teachers and staff about enrollment, but she said it was presented as if it was a survey.”They never told us there was a magic enrollment number,” she saidShe said on the last day of school “you had kids hysterically crying.” DeRosa said representatives of the Diocese had been working with the parish schools over the past several years. They were “trying to alert people to difficulties in declining enrollment, especially in areas of changing demographics.”He said schools with fewer than 225 students were considered at risk.Queen of Angels had 158 students enrolled this year. DeRosa said 132 will be transferring to new schools, most of them to St. Sebastian in Woodside.”The hope is that in the schools they choose, they will find the same healthy environment as in the school they are leaving,” he said.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.