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Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park is another COVID-19 victim.
By Michael V. Cusenza
While Gotham small businesses have garnered the lion’s share of the focus of New York’s economic recovery, it’s the schools and the very public tug-o-war over their reopening that have captivated communities.
As elected officials play politics with City-run schools, it’s the Catholic academies that have languished.
So much so that six located in Queens and Brooklyn—including Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach—will never reopen.
The Diocese of Brooklyn Office of the Superintendent—Catholic School Support Services on Thursday announced that OLG; Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park; Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Whitestone; St. Mel’s Catholic Academy in Flushing; Queen of Rosary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and St. Gregory the Great in Crown Heights/Flatbush, Brooklyn, will permanently close, effective Aug. 31, 2020. The devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis on enrollment and finances, an issue faced by many Catholic schools in the region and across the country, made it impossible for them to reopen for the coming school year, the DOB noted.
“This is an incredibly sad day for our Catholic community to have to close these schools, but the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is insurmountable. The difficult decisions come after the intense analysis of the financial picture of each academy,” said Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools.
According to the diocese, collectively, the six schools have seen a decline of enrollment over the last five years, but the registration totals for the upcoming school year are down significantly, largely due to the massive unemployment and loss of business that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than $630,000 in tuition bills for the past school year (2019-2020) remains outstanding at these schools.
“Today I was saddened to learn of the diocese decision to close Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in Howard Beach,” State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said Thursday. “For 95 years, Our Lady of Grace has been an important part of the Howard Beach community. My prayers go out to the students, parents, teachers and administration of the school. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. I intend to be in contact with the diocese, as to the future fate of the school building.”
According to the diocese, “every effort” will be made to help transition affected students and families to nearby Catholic academies. To help the transition, the DOB, through the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, will provide a one-time $500 financial grant for each child from a closed school enrolling and attending in a new Catholic elementary academy or school in Brooklyn or Queens this fall, as long as they have met all of their financial obligations. For those who meet the financial eligibility, tuition assistance is available through Futures in Education (futuresineducation.org).
The six Catholic academies in Queens and Brooklyn aren’t the only parochial schools in the city set to be permanently shuttered. The Archdiocese of New York, which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Westchester, Ulster, and Rockland, announced Thursday that 20 schools will be unable to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three schools will merge. The moves will impact approximately 2,500 students and 350 staff.
“Children are always the most innocent victims of any crisis, and this COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. “Too many have lost parents and grandparents to this insidious virus, and now thousands will not see their beloved school again. I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”