The Archdiocese of New York this week told school staff and families at 24 schools that they would close at the end of the school year, the latest and perhaps last step in a consolidation that reflects a dwindling population and pressure to lowers its costs.
Journalist Lisa Fleisher of the Wall Street Journal told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that the church would close 22 elementary schools and two high schools. The area affected includes Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and seven other counties.
“They’ve seen enrollment decline by more more than 25,000 students since 2003,” Fleisher said. “They say hopefully, they can’t make any promises, but they really hope this is going to the last round of closures.”
Callers and listeners responded to the news. Many of their comments touched on the rising tuition of the catholic schools during an economic downturn as well as the competition of charter schools as an alternative to district public schools.
Tom from Astoria said there was a religious component as well: “I went to Catholic school, it was excellent, he said. “I think the falling enrollment is due to falling commitment to the Catholic Church. Of three children I’m the only regular church-goer. Weirdo born again churches and plain old apathy have taken people away from the Catholic tradition. Mega churches expand while old churches are torn down all over the country.”
Sheldon disagreed, saying it was mostly an issue of costs. “We are still in a bad economy, and there is no student loans for K-12 education. An extra $4,000, even if it is worth it, is a lot for a blue collar family to shell out. And again – Charter schools have been a killer,” he said.
Camille from the Upper West Side said she has seen tuition at her son’s school rise “in the three years he’s been there from 4k a year to 6.5k a year. I think that’s making a lot of families think twice.”