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Our Lady of the Angelus Catholic Academy in Rego Park.

During the first week of March, the parents from Our Lady of the Angelus Catholic Academy in Rego Park received a notice in the mail to register for the 2018-19 school year, and some sent their tuition checks in right away.

A week later on March 10, however, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced the school would shut down in June. According to the Diocese, Our Lady of the Angelus suffered a 50 percent decline in enrollment since 2012 resulting in a $444,299 budget deficit.

It caught the whole school community, including the faculty, off-guard, according to two parents who are disappointed in the way the situation was handled.

Melissa Martinez, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Our Lady of the Angelus, told QNS that some parents now have to be refunded for next year’s tuition. Despite the massive financial losses, the parents had no indication the school was closing until a March 8 meeting when the news was broken to them, Martinez said.

“I sort of knew it did not have big cash flow or large enrollment, but there was never any open communication of imminent closing,” Martinez said. “We felt as though this was a decision that had already been made; there was no dialogue or wanting any feedback from parents at all.”

Martinez added that a woman who spoke up at the meeting said that she enrolled her child at Our Lady of the Angelus two weeks prior to the meeting and was given no indication that the school was about to close. To Martinez, this suggested that “it’s not something that teachers are keeping from us; if anything, they knew a few days before we did.”

Parents now have until June to figure out which school to enroll their children in next year. Even though the Diocese of Brooklyn is offering a $500 tuition assistance grant for parents who re-enroll their children at another nearby Catholic academy, Martinez said she is considering public schools as well.

Martinez is particularly hurt by the decision because her family has been a part of the parish for 40 years. She attended the school from first through eighth grade herself, and she has cousins who went to the school and then sent their children there, too, she said.

“This is a school that means a lot to me and it very much saddens me to see that there were no opportunities given to us to save the school,” Martinez said.

Another parent who spoke up at the March 8 meeting, Kelly Rambharos, said that most parents in attendance agreed they would have been willing to pay a higher tuition if that meant they could buy more time to figure out which schools to send their kids to next.

As for the schools that the Diocese is suggesting parents look into now, Rambharos said she ruled those schools out when she chose Our Lady of the Angelus.

Rambharos’ son, also a kindergarten student, needs an individualized education program. The board of education recommended that he should not be in classes with more than 22 students, and Rambharos worries that she won’t be able to find a school with such small class sizes again.

Rambharos added that one of her son’s special education teachers who was employed by a teaching agency was pulled from Our Lady of the Angelus to find another position by March 12, four days after being notified of the closure.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also announced on March 10 that Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Academy in Queens Village will close in June. That brings the number of Queens Catholic schools closing this year to four, along with St. Pancras School in Glendale and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Bayside.

That’s why Rambharos is keeping all of her options open, too.

“The fact that this school was open for 59 years, I’m worried that this will happen again,” Rambharos said. “I don’t want to be in the same situation next year.”

The Diocese of Brooklyn sent an FAQ document in response to a request for further comment, and it said that the final decision to close Our Lady of the Angelus was made “jointly by the Board of Directors and the Board of Members, together with the Office of Catholic Schools, and in consultation with the principal, Mrs. Ligoria Berkeley-Cummins.”

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