It’s been six years since I’ve been a student at St. John the Baptist de LaSalle Regional School in Farmingdale, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday.
I called LaSalle home for eight years of my life, starting way back in the first grade. When I think back on my childhood, that school was a huge part of it. It wasn’t just that the teachers were good and the activities plentiful. It was the care that the teachers put into even the littlest of things, and the lunch ladies that met every child with a smile. It was the parents who banded together and took hours out of their own lives to voluntarily assemble the playground that stands in the parking lot today.
More than anything else, the best way to describe LaSalle is simple: a family.
It was a cold day last December when I read that LaSalle was closing in June. I was 250 miles away from Farmingdale at the time, but my heart immediately sank like a pound of lead. The Diocese of Rockville Centre had decided to close six Long Island Catholic grammar schools because of declining enrollment, and my beloved school was one of them. The news was extremely hard to accept.
Deep down, I always knew that LaSalle probably wouldn’t last forever. Many Catholic grammar schools on the Island have long been struggling to stay open, and during my own time at the school I watched the Bethpage campus close and combine with Farmingdale eight years ago, leaving just one of the original four LaSalle campuses. But never did I think this one would close so soon. I figured I would graduate college, find a job, and move out of Farmingdale before LaSalle ever went anywhere.
If someone were to ask me what upsets me most about LaSalle’s closing, I’d have an easy answer. It’s not how sad I am when I think of all my favorite moments and memories there, as true as that may be. I had my time there, and I’m forever grateful for my parents’ decision to send me there. What disappoints me the most is thinking about the students there now, who will never get to make that walk across the St. Kilian altar on graduation day, and the future children who will never get a chance to attend. Also, the amazing teachers who have dedicated years of their lives to LaSalle and who I’m sure are taking this change very hard.
When LaSalle closes its doors for good in a week, as far as I’m concerned it will be a sad day for Farmingdale. It has certainly impacted the LaSalle community – both past and present – and parents and students made several valiant efforts to try and save the school in recent months. Their dedication in the matter is a testament to all that La Salle was and will forever be remembered as. And this town has seen a school connected with St. Kilian Parish since 1926, way back when it was called St. Kilian’s Parochial School.
Closing a school is never easy, and I’m sure it was a very difficult decision for the diocese to make. But there’s no doubt in my mind that this will leave a hole in the town of Farmingdale, one that I’ll always be reminded of when I make the all-too familiar drive down Cherry Street. It’ll be a reminder of the friends I had, the teachers who inspired me, and the community that was closer than anything I’ve ever been a part of. They say all good things must come to an end; it’s just unfortunate that the end has come now.