Diocese mulls consolidating three Catholic schools in Flushing

By Stephen Stirling

Three Flushing Catholic schools could merge at the end of the year to form one regional academy that would serve the entire Flushing and Kissena Park Corridor regions, the principal of St. Michael’s School said this week.

Under a plan proposed by the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese earlier this month, St. Michael’s School, St. Ann’s School and St. Mary’s Nativity School — all in Flushing — would close at the end of the year and reopen together on a single campus at the St. Mary’s site at 146-28 Jasmine Ave.

St. Michael’s School Principal Maureen Rogone said even though parents are worried about the potential transition, they are supportive of the possibility of a move.

“The parents are very concerned, but we have been keeping them well-informed every step of the way,” Rogone said.

Rogone said parents at St. Michael’s are fretting over how a move to a new school could affect transportation of students to and from the school. She said many parents  depend on the No. 7 subway line, located nearby, as they drop off and pick up their children, a practice St. Michael’s has made provision for by opening early and closing as late as 6:30 p.m.

Rogone said St. Michael’s has expressed the parents’  reservations to the diocese, which is expected to make a final decision on the proposals in late February.

“It’s important to state that these are only recommendations. We’re still in negotiations with the diocese, we’re providing feedback to them and Bishop [Nicholas] DiMarzio will issue his decision in February. That’s where we are now,” she said.

The proposed changes were part of a diocese-wide reconfiguration recommended by DiMarzio earlier this month that proposed 11 schools in the diocese — which covers both Brooklyn and Queens and represents more than 1.5 million Catholics —  would close at the end of the school year.

The reorganization, brought on by dropping enrollment, would take a more regional approach to the system of Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens rather than the more traditional format where schools drew enrollment from a single church congregation.

Flushing was not the only area of Queens that could be affected by DiMarzio’s plan.

In Queens, DiMarzio also recommended closing St. Benedict Joseph Labre in Richmond Hill, St. Anthony of Padua in Jamaica, St. Catherine of Sienna in Jamaica, Blessed Sacrament School in Corona and St. Aloysius School in Ridgewood in June.

The Brooklyn Diocese also proposed that three more Queens schools — Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach, St. Anastasia in Little Neck and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Ridgewood — close and reopen as academies by the end of the 2008-09 school year.

“I am committed to ensuring that our Catholic schools are accessible geographically and financially to the people of our diocese,” DiMarzio said. “When we determined that our schools are operating at only 85 percent of capacity, it became clear that we had to consider why this was happening and how we might reverse the trend.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.


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