When school is out for summer next week at St. Cecilia’s, it’s out forever.
The last bell will ring on June 18 at the 102-year-old Monitor Street Catholic school.
Father James Krische, pastor of St. Cecilia’s Church, says he got the orders to close the nursery- to eighth-grade school because of a drop in enrollment — down from 251 students at the start of this school year to just 107 for the next one.
“Enrollment could have dropped for a number of reasons,” Krische said. “Some families are not able to pay the tuition, others are moving out of the area.”
The dwindling student body coupled with a debt of $400,000 made it impossible for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn (which also includes Queens) to keep St. Cecilia’s open, church officials said.
“Up until now, the Diocese has been able to help them out, but it really can’t any more,” said spokesman Frank De Rossa.
St. Cecilia’s will join two other Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn that will close this year — St. Fortunata School in East New York and St. Finbar School in Bath Beach — and some 40 elementary schools that have been shut down by the Diocese since 1995.
Church officials tried to save St. Cecilia’s by merging the school and the congregation with nearby St. Nicholas church and school on Powers Street in September, 2009.
“The idea was that by merging the two schools, we would still have a strong Catholic school in the neighborhood rather than two that are weak,” Krische said.
Despite the pending merger, Krische had announced in April that St. Cecilia’s would terminate its under-attended kindergarten and first grade in the fall — but not even that move could close the budget gap.
So on May 12, school officials announced that St. Cecilia’s school would close while the parish would stay open until the pending merger — a decision that still has parents and students reeling.
“I think this was in the air since September, but they waited until May to let us know. They put us all in a predicament,” said Amarilys Velez, 31, of Bushwick, who sends four of her five children to St. Cecilia’s.
Velez is upset with administration for not notifying her of the changes sooner, but more than anything, she and her children are crushed to see their beloved school close.
“I’m very disappointed — the education was wonderful,” Velez said.
Church officials say that plans have been made to accept St. Cecilia’s students at Catholic schools including St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenpoint, or St. Nicholas, Northside Academy, and St. Joseph and Domenic Academy in Williamsburg.
St. Stan’s principal, Sister Dorothea Jurkowski, said the closure of St. Cecilia’s means more than an influx of new students.
“It’s such a terrible loss. We will be the only Catholic school left in Greenpoint,” she said. “But we are going to be the beacon. We’ve got to maintain Catholic education for those parents that want it.”