Years of declining enrollment has led to the June 2012 , a decision met with sadness and some anger, according to school officials and residents.
"It’s a death and we have to go through the stages of grief," said Msgr. Flynn, the pastor of St. Kilian parish, which oversees the regional school. Parents were notified by Diocese of Rockville Centre yesterday that La Salle is one of six Long Island Catholic elementary schools that will close at the end of this school year.
The school's enrollment, 184 students for 2011-2012, has declined 41 percent over the past decade. Enrollment, in addition to demographic changes at each school, the age of students in the area, the financial situation of the school and reviews of each school building, its technology and other programs offered, were all analyzed as part of the Diocese's Strategic Plan to chart a future for Catholic education on Long Island.
“Through these lenses the advisory committee determined each school's viability into the future,” said Sean P. Dolan, director of communications for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
La Salle is no stranger to enrollment issues. The school was formed when St. James in Seaford, St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage, St. Kilian's in Farmingdale and St. Pius X in Plainview all faced low enrollments in 1994 and decided to merge into one regional school. There were originally campuses in both Bethpage and Farmingdale, but the Bethpage campus closed several years back.
Msgr. Flynn said that La Salle had been working for several years to boost enrollment, but faced the challenges of a rough economy and high school taxes. Bishop William Murphy informed him of the closure on Monday.
"We hate to see it go, but the decision was made for the future of Catholic schools," said Msgr. Flynn. He added that the school will be bringing in presenters to help parents know their options.
In the letter home to families, La Salle principal Christine Bendish offered support as transition decisions are made.
"The faculty and staff are here to support you during this time and will do our best to make the remainder of this school year a memorable one for your child," she said. "We assure you that we will make the transition to another Catholic school in the fall of 2012 as smooth and positive as possible."
Diane Ramos, a Farmingdale resident who graduated from St. Kilan's and sent three children through La Salle, was disappointed to hear the news.
"LaSalle is a family. A Catholic school offers religion, morals, and faith not just in ‘religion class’ but in every class and activity that takes place," she said. "I think enrollment has dropped because the Diocese has not done enough to promote their elementary schools. Catholic high schools have waiting lists as the elementary schools are closing at a frightening rate."
The school currently employs around 20 faculty members, Msgr. Flynn said. He said that the school building will remain under ownership of the parish, since nearly 2,000 students attend religious instruction there, but that he may have to rent out some of the space to fund keeping it open.
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