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Catholic schools shut to ‘stop the bleeding’

The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s not a get rich quick scheme that’s driving the Diocese of Brooklyn to close Catholic schools.

“We did not close schools so that we could generate revenues,” said diocese spokesperson Rev. Kieran Harrington. “The schools that were closed were closed because we could no longer sustain the subsidy to keep them open. It wasn’t about generating cash, it was about stopping the bleeding.”

Harrington was responding to questions about what will happen to the buildings of the Catholic schools that will close this June.

In years past, the diocese has rented several of the buildings to the state and city Education Departments for extra cash.

In the case of St. Finbar School in Bensonhurst, which closed last summer, the school building was rented to the state to operate an educational program for autistic children and a universal pre-K program. Part of the money is being used to keep the parish afloat.

“In any of these places, revenue that’s generated from the rental of the school building substantially goes back to Catholic education,” Harrington explained.

In such an instance, the money would be split by nearby Catholic schools with each, for instance, receiving $100,000 a year.

In Brooklyn, Most Precious Blood School at 133-157 27th Avenue, Flatbush Catholic Academy at 2520 Church Avenue, and St. Vincent Ferrer School at 1603 Brooklyn Avenue will all close in June.

Two Catholic schools in Windsor Terrace – Immaculate Heart of Mary School and Holy Name School – may merge in the future.

With the closure of additional Catholic schools later this year, the diocese is still in talks with the city Education Department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the possibility of opening charter schools in vacant parochial school buildings.

Bloomberg believes this will keep Catholic school students out of local public schools, which are already overcrowded.

However, Bishop Frank Caggiano, vicar general to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, told this paper last month that the diocese “could not proceed in any way, shape or form” if the charter schools must teach sex education.

Caggiano also said that the diocese plans to explore the possibility of “putting in legislation that could, in the future, fit part of the strategic goals of preserving the vision,” which he acknowledged meant teaching Catholicism.

This raises questions and concerns since charter schools are public schools, thereby mandated to teach sex education and abide by separation of church and state.

“There are some questions that need to be resolved and if those questions would be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction then we would move forward,” Harrington said. “Can Catholic schools operate public schools considering our world view? Does that make that possible? What’s really going to be lost from our perspective? Would we be compromising our integrity?”

Talks between the diocese and city are continuing. If they reach an agreement, charter schools could open in parochial school buildings as early as this September, Harrington said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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