The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact continue to be felt in Queens and Brooklyn where six Catholic academies are being forced to permanently close.
The Diocese of Brooklyn announced Thursday that the coronavirus crisis caused such a financial strain on enrollment and finances, an issue faced by many Catholic Schools in the region and across the country, made it impossible for them to reopen for the coming school year.
In Queens, Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park, Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach, Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Whitestone, and St. Mel’s Catholic Academy will be permanently effective Aug. 31.
In Brooklyn, Queen of the Rosary in Williamsburg and St. Gregory the Great of Crown Heights will be shuttered on the same day.
“This is an incredibly sad day for our Catholic community to have to close these schools, but the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is insurmountable,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D, said. “The difficult decisions come after the intense analysis of the financial picture of each academy.”
Collectively, these schools have seen a decline in enrollment over the last five years, but the registration totals for the upcoming school year are down significantly, largely due to the massive unemployment and loss of business that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than $630,000 in tuition bills for the past school year remains outstanding at these schools.
The Diocese of Brooklyn assures the community that every effort will be made to help transition affected students and families to nearby Catholic academies. To help the transition, the Diocese, through the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, will provide a one-time $500 financial grant for each child from a closed school enrolling and attending in a new Catholic elementary academy or school in Queens or Brooklyn this fall, as long as they have met all of their financial obligations.
For those who meet the financial eligibility, tuition assistance is available through Futures in Education at www.futuresineducation.org. Despite the closures, there is great optimism about the future of Catholic education in both Queens and Brooklyn.
“Our smaller and caring community of schools has many advantages as witnessed by how quickly we adapted to remote learning this spring. In grades K-8, we were nearly one to one, students to devices with data plans, an incredible feat which allowed for distance learning success in our schools,” Chadzutko said. “The learning went on in our schools for six hours a day, so our children knew that even though they were separated, they were not alone. Our devoted teachers and staff supported every child with the tools they needed to continue their education. We will continue to improve on this so we can be ready to handle any challenge this coming fall.”
Online information meetings will be held next week for parents at the academies scheduled to close. Administrators and personnel from neighboring Catholic academies will be available virtually to present their programs and answer any questions parents may have.
“I am saddened to learn the news that both Holy Trinity Catholic Academy and St. Mel’s Catholic Academy will permanently close this summer due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” Queens Councilman Paul Vallone said. “I am concerned to see educational options reduced during such challenging times for our borough and our city, which already suffered from overcrowded schools. I know the loss of both of these Catholic academies, which have each taught generations of northeast Queens families, will be deeply felt in our community.”