By Naeisha Rose
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Academy, a religious school that had been a mainstay in Queens Village since 1932, will be closing its doors and leaving 170 students in limbo.
To accommodate the students displaced by the June 30 closure, the academy held a Catholic School Fair last Thursdaywith teachers from St. Clare Catholic Academy in Rosedale, St. Gregory Catholic Academy in Bellerose, Our Lady of Snows in Glen Oaks and Incarnation Church and Catholic School in Queens Village.
The kindergarten to eighth-grade Catholic academy was originally named Our Lady of Lourdes School, and initially served first to fifth-grade students. It has remained at 92-80 220th St. since it opened.
A decline in enrollment and lack of funds to subsidize students’ tuition have resulted in a budget deficit totaling $200,000 for the school, according to Principal Debra Molloy.
“What we are charging for tuition is not what it costs to educate students anymore,” Principal Debra Molloy told TimesLedger Newspapers.
The cost to educate each child is over $6,000 annually, but the tuition has been around $4,450 over the years, and the school has not been able to raise enough funds to make up the difference.
According to the school, 75 percent fewer students applied to attend the school in a five-year period from 2013 to 2018and there are only 170 students in kindergarten to eighth grade classes. The average class size for this school year was 18 and has resulted in less staff.
The school was in need of extensive repairs that cost $1.5 million, according to the letter.
“The whole building has a flat roof,” said the principal about the 86-year-old school.
Another section of the school, which also has a flat roof, was built in 1967, said Molloy.
“That flat roof causes problems,” said Molloy.
To withstand natural disasters Our Lady of Lourdes needs to fix the roof, and the external brickwork requires a lot of updating that would result in work being done within the building for the walls as well, according to Molloy.
“It’s not like the school is falling down, or anything like that,” said the principal, but “there have been terrible winters and if we get two feet of snow that sits on the roof…if it gets in the shingles [it could be bad].”
Our Lady of Lourdes also faced stiff competition from other Catholic schools, which surrounds it in all directions: the new Wellspring Elementary & Middle School in Hollis and local district schools like IS109 that have improved over the years.
“We have good schools around us,” said Molloy. “Unfortunately, the facts are against us- the money and the repairs.”
Molloy also cited gentrification for raising the cost of homes in the area.
“The house values here have gone through the roof,” said the principal. “People have to decide if they are going to pay for Catholic school or are they going to pay their mortgage.”
“It’s a sad day for Our Lady of Lourdes and Queens Village,” said Molloy.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose