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Parents of Astoria Catholic school slated to close tell church officials: ‘Give us a chance’

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Almost two weeks after learning that Most Precious Blood Catholic School in Astoria will be shuttered at the end of the school year, parents of the students are begging for one last chance to raise enough money to fix the building and keep it open.

Students and parents at Most Precious Blood School, located at 35-32 37th St., found out Jan. 9, through a letter written by Reverend William Krlis, pastor at Most Precious Blood Church, that the 58-year-old school would be closing due to drops in enrollment and the need for costly structural repairs.

“These essential building repairs, combined with declining enrollment, will not allow us to continue,” Krlis said in the letter. “This decision was not made easily. After much dialogue with all relevant parties, including officials from the Diocese of Brooklyn and local Catholic schools, as well as consulting with engineering firms regarding the state of these necessary repairs, I presented these facts to the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn. With his support, I made this painful decision in the best interest of the parish community.”

Krlis added that an estimated $5.5 million in structural repairs are needed for both the school and church. The school building needs about $2.55 million in repairs and work cannot be done at the site while being used full time.

Since receiving the news, parents have come together to try to figure out ways to fund the repairs. Members of the Home School Association (HSA), which includes parents, met with school officials Tuesday night to present their ideas but were turned down.

“It was a really really disappointing meeting,” said Lissette Paz, an HSA member who has two sons who attend Most Precious Blood. “They came in with the agenda to tell us how to move forward and how to transition to the new school and here we are giving suggestions on how we can keep both the school and parish open.”

Among the suggestions were ideas of raising funds for repairs, coming up with a three- to five-year budget for the school, and informing the school that a contracting company was willing to do pro bono work to repair the sites.

“I don’t understand. There is so much here that we have,” Paz said. “We’re basically trying to show them that we have so many solutions to their problems.”

According to Paz, the next and last step they will have to take is to present their ideas and plan to the Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio after he returns from a retreat this Sunday. Paz plans to personally hand an invitation to DiMarzio to come to the school.

She added that the only progress made was that the neighboring Catholic schools have all agreed that if the school “miraculously stays open” they would refund registration fees to parents that might have enrolled their children in fear of losing a spot.

“All the other schools are given opportunities, why have we not been given the opportunity? Give us a chance. That’s all we ask you for,” Paz said. “Our school is in wonderful condition. We do need some repairs but nothing that our children would be in danger.”

Paz, whose husband is an alum of the school and who was married at Most Precious Blood Church, said she doesn’t see the repairs needed as sufficient reason to close the school, which last year received new computers and smartboards in all the rooms.

She mentioned that the only crucial problem is one church wall that is being supported by a beam from the outside. Many parents have sent letters to teachers at the school stating that they don’t want their children attending mass at the church because of the “danger” referred to by school officials as one of the reasons to close.

“I would not send my kids to a school that is in any kind of disarray. If we knew that there was a bigger problem, we would fix it,” Paz said.

Most Precious Blood will host an open house on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for Catholic Schools Week and Paz hopes a lot of people show up to see how great the school actually is.

“We want to shout from the rooftops, ‘Come and see our school,’” Paz said. “We invite everyone to come in and see our beautiful school.”

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