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Amid concerns, Diocese denies merger rumors

The Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens has denied rumors of a potential merger between two Catholic elementary schools in Howard Beach, though some parents remain concerned.
Our Lady of Grace School (OLG), at 158-20 101st Street, and St. Helen’s, at 83-09 157th Avenue, were rumored to be combining before the start of the fall 2007 semester.
City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo says his office has received multiple calls from worried parents claiming they have received no definite information from the Archdiocese, which runs both schools.
“Some of these are parents who went to these schools themselves, and now their kids are going there,” said Addabbo. “They’re getting no input, and that’s not right. They pay tuition.”
Frank DeRosa, spokesperson for the Archdiocese, said there has been “no discussion” of a merger.
“Those schools will reopen in September as they are,” said DeRosa.
OLG could not be reached for comment on the matter, but St. Helen’s claimed no knowledge of such a union.
Each school falls within the 27th School District and serves grades K-8. It has been speculated that low enrollment is the cause of the would-be merger, though the Archdiocese could not provide statistics on recent enrollment trends. Last year, however, OLG registered only 409 students, while St. Helen’s enrolled just over 300.
Addabbo said a merger of the schools would be a “bad sign” for the community.
“When an institution merges with another institution, you lose a sense of identity,” said the councilmember. “It’s bad for morale, both for students and parents.”
While this particular case appears to be moot, Addabbo said the very circulation of rumors points to a more important problem.
Referring to the June announcement of a merger between Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School and St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr School, Addabbo said the Diocese’s poor track record of communicating with the public could explain the high level of concern among locals.
“The sub-issue here is a failure on the part of the Diocese to communicate at the community level,” he said.

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