Ridgewood’s St. Matthias Catholic Academy set to close despite efforts from parents and faculty to save historic institution

St. Matthias
St. Matthias Catholic Academy is slated to close this September.
Photo by Anthony Medina

The St. Matthias Catholic Academy is slated to close its doors this September, despite the best efforts from parents and staff who attempted to thwart the impending decision.

A letter released by St. Matthias Catholic Academy on Monday, May 6 announced the decision to close this September due to low enrollment numbers and crippling financial debt — a point hammered into the forefront of conversations about the school’s end.

Parents of the Ridgewood institution motivated the last-minute effort by the Board of Trustees to save the school in April, the same week they were told of the school’s closing.

Despite having enrolled 24 additional students at St. Matthias and raising nearly $90,000 in a Save Our School campaign, the fate of the school remains, according to the letter by St. Matthias.

“We cannot count on potential large donations in the future to pay our teachers and keep the lights on during the next school year,” a portion of the letter reads. “We fervently believe that stability for our students is our highest priority and we would be repeating this announcement next school year, causing more pain, heartache and disruption.”

A parent meeting inside St. Matthias Catholic Academy, in April, only days after school officials announced the school is is set to close in June. Photo by Anthony Medina

During the meeting that followed the school’s closing announcement last month, Chairman Gregory Haufe made it clear that St. Matthias could not rely on money alone to run the school year-to-year.

Parents caught off guard by the sudden announcement raised questions about why they weren’t made aware of the situation sooner. Regardless of what the board said to parents that night, many still expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of specific communications about the school’s financial situation and enrollment challenges.

Nonetheless, the gradually decreasing enrollment numbers still established what would turn out to be the school’s end.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, serving Brooklyn and Queens, told QNS the decision to close the school comes after other ways to save the school were explored.

“Enrollment at St. Matthias Catholic Academy has declined nearly 50% over the last five years from 283 students to 150 students,” the Brooklyn Diocese shared in a statement. “Despite the best efforts to prevent this closure, the student population continued to decrease while the budget shortfalls increased.”

Outside efforts from elected officials like Council Member Robert Holden, who represents a portion of Ridgewood, also sought to delay the school’s closing.

Holden penned a letter to the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Board of Trustees at St. Matthias Catholic Academy on Tuesday, Apr. 23, urging them to explore all possible avenues to prevent the school’s closure.

Holden’s office insists that they explored other options with the Diocese, but there was no expressed interest in moving away from the decision.

As the donation’s organizers have stated, the funds raised in the GoFundMe and Save Our Schools efforts to keep the school open will return to the donors.

As the school approaches the end of the school year, parents continue to scramble to find other Catholic schools.

The Diocesan schools office has created a webpage to help guide parents in the process of finding other Catholic school options.

There are six Catholic academies within a 2.5-mile radius that are willing to accept students from St. Matthias and held Open House events following the closure announcement during the week of Apr. 23, according to the Diocese.

What will become of the school following its 114-year existence in Ridgewood is unknown.