Town of Smithtown parents with children enrolled in local Catholic elementary schools said they supported the Diocese’s decision to close schools, but some worried about its future impact.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced Tuesday it is on Long Island at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. Among the schools scheduled to close are Prince of Peace Regional School in Sayville and St. John Baptist La Salle Regional School in Farmingdale.
Diocese of Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy said the decision to close the six schools was brought on by "changing demographics and difficult national and local economic conditions."
“It makes sense to close a school rather than keep operating at a deficit. You won’t see that happen in public school, there’s the unions and 20,000 people to go through,” said one parent waiting for a St. Patrick’s School student Wednesday afternoon in Smithtown.
He was referring to Smithtown Central School District grappling with the decision of possibly closing either Mill Pond Elementary School or Nesconset Elementary School, a plan that .
Public knowledge and awareness of the diocese’s announcement varied widely among parents at St. Patrick’s on Wednesday. One man we spoke with said he was unaware of the announcement, and was fine with the decision given it didn’t affect St. Patrick’s, while others said they had heard.
“It’s a shame, all my kids when to LI Catholic elementary at St. Joseph’s. But I can see the economics of it. For parents, they are paying the big school taxes in addition to tuition,” said George H., of Centereach, who declined to give his last name, as he picked up his grandson up from St. Patrick’s School in Smithtown.
Tuition at St. Patrick’s School starts at $4,360 per a full-time student in 2011-2012, or $4,500 at Holy Family Regional School in Commack, which serves four Catholic parishes: Christ the King in Commack, St. Joseph’s in Kings Park, St. Matthew’s in Dix Hills, St. Thomas More in Hauppauge.
Exact enrollment figures for these two schools were not available from the Diocese of Rockville Center or the individual schools.
The Diocese released figures that show the Prince of Peace in Sayville has seen enrollment drop 24 percent, from 179 students in the 2000 - 2011 school year to 136 students in 2011-2012. The drop was even more dramatic at La Salle in Farmingdale, down 41 percent in the same time frame.
However, some parents worried that decision to close six elementary schools could have a further detrimental impact on enrollment.
“It may discourage some people from enrolling their children in a Catholic school, which is a shame. It’s a good education,” said one St. Patrick’s parent.
Staff members at both St. Patrick’s and Holy Family said their schools would gladly accept any students looking to transfer at the end of the year.