Glendale Catholic school shutting its doors this year due to plunge in enrollment

St. Pancras School in Glendale is closing permanently in June.
Photo via Google Maps

UPDATED Jan. 11, 1:30 p.m.

Citing anemic enrollment and resulting financial losses, Glendale’s St. Pancras School — a neighborhood fixture for nearly 110 years — is closing its doors forever this June.

Parents of the 105 students currently enrolled at the Catholic school received the news on Jan. 10 in a letter co-signed by Reverend Francis Hughes, St. Pancras Church pastor, and Maria Soto, the school’s principal. QNS received a copy of the letter Thursday morning.

The Diocese of Brooklyn is working to enroll current St. Pancras students (except eighth-graders graduating this June) at neighboring Catholic schools for the next school year, including St. Matthias Catholic Academy in Ridgewood and Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Glendale. Hughes and Soto noted that the diocese will be offering St. Pancras parents a one-time tuition grant to re-register their children up to the seventh grade at a local Catholic school or academy for the 2018-19 school year.

According to the letter, the St. Pancras student population dropped by 100 students over the last six years; the average class size now stands at 13.

“While it may seem that a small class size is desirable, tuition for this type of education normally approaches $15,000 annually or more,” Hughes and Soto wrote; annual tuition at St. Pancras starts at $4,880 per child. “The parish does not have the means to subsidize the school for the future, and we cannot do so at the expense of other parish programs and ministries.”

The downturn in enrollment reduced the school’s income from tuition, creating a budget shortfall that now exceeds $250,000, Hughes and Soto said. Despite the school community’s best efforts to keep it going — including holding fundraisers and an extensive marketing campaign — Hughes and Soto said the situation is no longer sustainable.

“To attempt to continue the school while further curtailing academic services and extracurricular activities would be a serious disservice to your sons and daughters,” they wrote. “Also, the necessary staff constrictions would contribute to the deterioration of the total education program.”

When reached for comment on Thursday, Reverend Hughes confirmed that the closure letter was sent home to parents, but referred QNS to the Diocese of Brooklyn for further comment on the matter.

Carolyn Erstad, a diocese spokesperson, told QNS that each St. Pancras student enrolling in a Catholic grammar school or academy within the diocese in September would receive a $500 grant from the Futures in Education program. Futures in Education raises funds to help parents across the diocese afford a Catholic education for their children.

In addition to Sacred Heart Catholic Academy and St. Matthias Catholic Academy, other nearby Catholic schools welcoming St. Pancras students in September include St. Margaret Catholic Academy in Middle Village; Notre Dame Catholic Academy of Ridgewood; and St. Stanislaus Catholic Academy in Maspeth.

St. Pancras School opened in 1908 at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 68th Street; for decades it was operated by the Sisters of St. Dominic, who educated generations of children from kindergarten through eighth grade. The school grew into a community fixture hosting a variety of educational, parish and athletic functions, including an active CYO sports program.

While St. Pancras School will be closing in June, the universal pre-kindergarten program in place there will remain in operation, Erstad said. It’s funded by the city’s Department of Education through the UPK NYC initiative.

The future of the St. Pancras School building, however, remains unknown, she added.

As for the faculty, Erstad said the Diocese Superintendent’s office “will work to place every teacher from St. Pancras” at another academy. Just 10 teachers are part of the St. Pancras staff, and with as many as 200 anticipated teacher openings next year, the diocese does not anticipating having any problems finding new schools for the teachers.

The diocese will also work to place other St. Pancras staff members at other schools around the diocese.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, state Senator Joseph Addabbo expressed dismay about St. Pancras School’s impending closure. He also expressed concern about the long-term fate of Catholic education, which continues to battle declining enrollment even as the Diocese of Brooklyn and other dioceses across the nation restructure their education programs.

“It saddens me to see a fine Catholic school forced to stop operations due to a lack of funds and low enrollment rates. St. Pancras has been educating children and growing the Catholic faith in Glendale for over 100 years and it is a shame to see that come to an end,” Addabbo said. “I am concerned for the students and parents as they decide an educational direction after St. Pancras.”