Latest round of Catholic school closures claim St. Camillus in Rockaway Park; merge schools near Ridgewood

St. Camillus Catholic Academy in Rockaway Park will close at the end of the school year this June, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn.
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St. Camillus Catholic Academy in Rockaway Park will be closed and the end of the school year and two Catholic academies in Brooklyn, just across the border from Ridgewood, will merged next year, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced.

The two Bushwick academies, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Academy and St. Brigid Catholic Academy together will be renamed St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy and the school will be located at St. Brigid’s.

The difficult decisions were made due to declining enrollment and severe budget deficits that have resulted, according to the diocese.

The students at all affected schools will be accommodated at nearby Catholic academies. They will automatically receive a $500 tuition assistance grant if they attend an academy or parish school within the Diocese of Brooklyn, as long as they have met all of their financial obligations. That one-time grant is made possible by the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust.

“It’s an emotional time for the diocese when schools have to close because it is affecting the lives of students, parents, and faculty,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Chadzutko, Ed. D, said. “The decisions come after intense analysis of enrollment trends and the financial picture of each academy.”

At St. Camillus, the current school year budget is running a deficit of more than $20,000 and with deficits of more than $100,000 for the two previous years, the academy has limited funds to meet expenses. Enrollment at St. Camillus is down nearly 25 percent from just five years ago.

At St. Frances Cabrini, the building repairs have continues to increase and last year, the Board of Directors spent over $200,000 in unexpected repairs. That along with declining enrollment there and at St. Brigid Catholic Academy is the reason for the merger.

“I respect the boards’ decisions in these matters,” Chadzutko said. “When resources are constrained, if affects all aspects of the learning environment, which eventually impacts students and their needs. Our children are our first priority.”

Information Night meetings will begin next week scheduled to close and administrators and personnel from neighboring Catholic academies will be on hand to present their programs and answer questions that parents may have.

The merged St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy will be designated an Embassy School and as a result it will receive additional funding from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust. The merged academy will also receive technology updates to the infrastructure through DeSales Media Group, the communications, and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“It is the goal of the office to assist all parents in placing their children in their neighboring school if they so choose as well as working with faculty and staff who have dedicated their lives to Catholic education,” Chadzutko said. “It is our hope that these changing demographics of Brooklyn and Queens stabilizes so that enrollment in Catholic academies throughout the diocese can increase in the future.”

Two other Catholic academies in Brooklyn will also be closed after the current school year. Mary Queen of Heaven in Mill Basin with its enrollment down nearly 60 percent from five years ago, and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dyker Heights, with its enrollment down 35 percent in the last five years.