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OLPH Pastor: Decision to Close School Sad, But Not Surprising

Declining enrollment, tough economy made the Diocese's decision to close the Lindenhurst Catholic school inevitable, he says, despite efforts to keep it open.

had been trying to stem the tide of a financial and enrollment reality that's been slowly turning against them since 2000, according to , pastor of .

He told Lindenhurst Patch on Wednesday that since then enrollment's declined 75 percent. Currently, the has 194 students; 157 of which are enrolled in kindergarten to eighth grade with the balance of students in pre-K and nursery school.

"But once a school drops below 200, it's in trouble," the pastor said. "And you need 225 just to break even."

So while no one wanted to the school to , reality set in for the , to much , but not surprise.

"We worked very hard to keep it open, [but] we've known the realities for a long time - the financial people, the school board, etc. And the parish has been oversubsidizing the school for the past couple of years. It's resulted in a tremendous debt on our side," Father Trapani said.

Though he declined to offer specifics, he did say that the subsidy figure is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and isn't something new for a parish that has a school.

"The parish will often absorb a school's deficit each year," he said.

However, the parish has been facing the same harsh economic realities that has impacted many parts of the community. To keep the school open for the past few years, those subsidies have also been covered by the Diocese of Rockville Centre. And the parish is left with the debt.

But even with subsidies - which could be seen in the parish's yearly fiscal report that's due out at the end of the month for fiscal year ending Spetmeber 30, 2011 - no one was sitting back waiting for what became the inevitable closure decision.

In fact, since 2007, when Father Trapani started as pastor at OLPH, he and the parish worked with the school, the Parents' Association (school board) and the principal, Carmela Lubrano, to boost enrollment and raise funds.

"We advertised and sent special fliers out, and when Bower [Elementary] school was closing, we reached out to some of the parents to gauge interest, but it didn't really work," he said. "We fundraised, and contacted alumni for donations, which worked minimally. But it didn't provide a steady enough flow of income."

In the end the economic tide did turn against the school, and now parents and students are forced to seek alternate schools.

To help, the Diocese after the start of the New Year will start sending representatives from the remaining open to each of the six Catholic schools across Long Island that are closing. They will work to answer parents' questions about tuition and offerings.

"We were told that, but details will come after January 1. The remaining schools need time to prepare a plan," said the pastor, who was told of the closure news Monday by Bishop William Murphy and the superintendent of the Catholic schools, along with the pastors of the slated to close in June.

The pastors were asked to take the news back to the principals, and he broke the news to Lubrano, who, he said, was taking the news "as well as can be expected." And that's pretty much the way, he said, the teachers, parents and students have been reacting.

"It's sad because it's a great school," said Father Trapani. "I don't think we failed. I think we're a product of the times."

Letters to parents from the Diocese and from the school were sent by mail on Tuesday morning, followed by an e-mail to them, all expressing regret, reiterating support in the upcoming transition for the 2012-13 school year and explaining the decision to close OLPH School.

The letters are posted on the school's website.

And it will be up to the parents as to where to send their kids for the next school year. Some, he imagined, could attend , since a majority live in the community, but he's hoping that many parents stay with Catholic school education and not let the hurt or sadness of the decision to close OLPH School turn them against it.

"My biggest concern now is the kids. Our task now is to work with them and their parents for the transition. And the task for the Diocese now is to regroup," he said.

Patti Parez December 11, 2011 at 08:45 PM
why cant rockerville center keep this alive
Colleen McCormack January 10, 2012 at 05:54 PM
There are a number of false statements in this article. There was little to no advertising because Fr.Trapani would not approve it, and he has done nothing to help keep it open. He took fundraisers away, saying there was no need for them, and made the scrip program voluntary. (as a mandatory fundraiser, it is a guaranteed money maker) Since his arrival and Fr. Jim's departure, our children have no interaction with our pastor or the other parish priests, which speaks volumes about how our pastor really feels about the school. This has been his mission and he has reached his goal. Took him three years to bring the end to a community stronghold. The Bishop may have made the decision to close the school, but our pastor is behind it. Ask him where he was when our kids were at school the morning after the media got word...it wasn't in the school building showing any compassion, knowing fully well the devastation that would be felt. The diocese handled it poorly, and then our pastor announced at mass that it was the fault of the parents and the parishioners for the close, NOT his.
vin boccanfuso February 23, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Couldnt agree more Colleen, hopefully with him leaving it will open the parish to bigger and better things beyond attending mass and being berated by him about those who do not attend, attending mass only for " free palm" (versus pay per piece i guess?) and all his incessant negative whining. Attendance and contributions are also down and imo its directly related to Trapani, i feel for the parish he is headed to, they have no idea about the " pass the buck pity me" on their way, good riddance,on to better things for Lindenhurst OLPH.

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