Parents and teachers are still reeling as St. Cecilia’s School prepared to close its doors this week during its final year of classes after serving Greenpoint and Williamsburg for more than 100 years.
“It’s a travesty. It’s terrible. It’s a shame this institution has been here providing a great Catholic education for the community,” said Pedro Bobe, a parent and Williamsburg resident.
In May, parents received two letters from the school’s principal, Kathleen Quinn, one which informed them that the school would be open in September before merging the following year with St. Nicholas, a nearby parish in Williamsburg. Later that month, the Dioceses changed its decision to keep the school open and Quinn had to send another letter, retracting the previous one.
“They told us one thing one month and another thing another month,” said a grandparent of a child in the school who wished to remain anonymous. “To do it the way they did it was unjust.”
According to Father John Krische, pastor at St. Cecilia’s, the school, located at 15 Monitor Street, is closing because its enrollment dropped considerably below its projections and the Church does not have the revenues to keep the school open for the coming year. Only 107 children registered for the next academic year, after the Church had projected 270 student enrollments for the 07-08 year. During the current year, there were only 250 student enrollments, and that number has now dwindled to 222 after a number of families left.
“Our financial obligations were short about $400,000,” said Father Krische, who estimated that he would need about $500,000 to keep the school open next year. “It’s not like we could take money out of reserves because there are no reserves. I could not sign contracts with teachers by May 15 because we didn’t have any money to pay them. That’s not fair to the teachers.”
As of now, St. Cecilia’s staff members do not know what the use of the school building will be in the near future.
Several teachers remained stunned that the school would be closing. Principal Quinn was meeting with teachers one by one this week to go over last-minute details surrounding their departures. Teachers have been put on priority lists by the Dioceses for other jobs in Catholic schools throughout the city. Most have found jobs through the Catholic school system, but others are still looking.
“Teachers have had to scramble for jobs,” said one teacher, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s very unsettling for all of us to be given a month’s notice. The Diocese claims there were budgetary issues. Why would you not know that only four weeks later?”
Meanwhile, parents are looking towards placing their children in schools of neighboring parishes and even public schools in their areas. One third of parents are members of St. Cecilia’s parish, though the other two thirds commute to the school on about 14 different buses, some from as far away as Staten Island. The school also serves a large special-needs population, and parents will have to find a suitable replacement, well after public school lotteries have been held.
Pedro Bobe will be registering his oldest daughter to St. Nicholas next year, though he noted that many other parents he is friendly with are enrolling their children in public school next year. Bobe will also have to find a new school for his youngest daughter, who he had been planning on enrolling at St. Cecilia’s when she would be old enough to attend.
“I don’t understand why the school is closing down,” Bobe said. “Two generations of my family have been coming here.”