After the Archdiocese of New York’s Feb. 15 announcement it might shut 12 elementary faculties and merge 4 others into two, Superintendent of Faculties Michael J. Deegan unveiled to OSV Information a Catholic academic pilot program that gives new hope to whole communities.
A Catholic schooling and household heart will open at St. Philip Neri parish within the Bronx, which isn’t straight affected by the closings. Deegan stated beneath the brand new plan, “the parish and faculty will develop into the epicenter of pastoral take care of the parish and surrounding parishes.”
“Along with improved teachers within the faculty, we can have extra sturdy non secular schooling and an after-school program that isn’t simply babysitting, however will embrace music, athletics, arts and dance,” he stated.
This system will likely be open to college students within the parochial faculty in addition to school-age youngsters all through the group, he stated.
As well as, different archdiocesan workplaces “are planning applications, presence and providers that may happen on the parish campus,” Deegan stated. These embrace the workplaces of household life, youth ministry, religion formation and Hispanic affairs.
Catholic Charities will assist with housing and job placement, amongst different providers. Archcare, the archdiocesan well being part, will supply applications to help psychological well being and common well-being, he stated.
“We acknowledge that faculties must be greater than merely academic establishments,” he stated.
After the pilot program, future iterations of the Catholic schooling and household heart mannequin will likely be established in different parishes which have faculties, in addition to these whose faculty buildings are being utilized by the constitution faculties or parish non secular teaching programs, Deegan stated.
The pilot grew out of a strategic planning course of that in the end led to the choice to shut and merge faculties this 12 months for the long run advantage of the Catholic faculty system, Deegan stated.
Deegan stated closing the faculties is “devastating to us after a long time of constructing them as much as make them exemplary Catholic faculties.”
He cited sturdy teachers together with rising check scores that outpace these of public and most constitution faculties in New York Metropolis. He stated catechesis and religion formation within the faculties put together the following era of Catholics.
It’s notably heartbreaking when the components affecting the choice to shut faculties are largely past the management of the archdiocese, Deegan stated. Particularly, relocation of individuals away from Manhattan throughout the pandemic and excessive unemployment charges within the Bronx challenged the monetary viability of the faculties, particularly in these two boroughs.
Fifteen of the faculties affected by the upcoming closings and mergers are in Manhattan and the Bronx. One is in Staten Island. The archdiocese operates faculties in 9 of the ten counties it covers. The Feb. 15 announcement impacts roughly 5% of scholars within the archdiocesan faculty system.
Deegan stated the archdiocese invests $45 million in its academic ministry every year and no pupil pays the total value of schooling. College students in regionally administered faculties are backed by roughly $4,000 every year. These in parish faculties could obtain direct subsidies from the parish and plenty of college students get monetary help or scholarships from a plethora of charitable entities within the archdiocese.
Regardless of vigorous fundraising from beneficiant donors, “we fell quick and households could not afford to remain,” Deegan stated. “We could not surpass the funding we’re already giving,” he added.
The faculties of the archdiocese weathered the pandemic and reopened sooner than others. Faculties in some areas benefited from a bump in enrollment. Nonetheless, Deegan stated they started a strategic planning course of within the spring of 2021 to “take a deeper take a look at what we do and strengthen Catholic schooling within the archdiocese.”
The superintendent employed Bellwether, an academic consulting agency. Deegan stated the group carried out surveys and in-person conversations with “a whole bunch of individuals,” collected in depth demographic info, assessed amenities and did market analysis. The varsity closings and mergers had been essentially the most instantly seen final result of the prolonged course of.
The planning course of additionally addressed the transition from elementary faculties to excessive faculties within the archdiocese. Deegan stated there’s an effort to align schooling at each ranges by increasing Catholic center faculties for grades 6-8. College students in these faculties will profit from sharing laboratory and athletic amenities with excessive faculties, he stated.
“We have had nice tutorial success, however we’re by no means happy with our progress,” Deegan stated. His faculties have adopted the Nationwide Requirements and Benchmarks for Efficient Catholic Elementary and Secondary Faculties, or NESBECS, created by the Nationwide Catholic Training Affiliation. The requirements cowl mission and Catholic id, governance and management, tutorial excellence and operational vitality.
“We measure every part we do towards these benchmarks,” he stated, “so each faculty would be the exemplary Catholic faculty it needs to be.”