Catholic school prepares to fight Diocese over closure

Weeks after the Buffalo Catholic Diocese announced it’s closing 10 elementary schools, several congregations are scrambling to try to stop it.

Some of these schools are standing up to the Diocese and insisting they should be part of their students’ educational future. The majority of parents at St. Francis School in Tonawanda are ignoring the Diocese’s assertion that their school will close at the end of the school year.

Former student, Attorney Mark Saltarelli said, “We’ve been here 140 years and we are going to keep going. People take for granted that if the Bishop says something it’s Gospel. It isn’t.”

During an open house Sunday, a majority of the 189 students at the school registered for next year.

“This school is going to be open in September. Our faculty is committed and we’ve registered over 125 children,” Saltarelli said.

But a spokesperson for Bishop Richard Malone said both church and state law say the Bishop has the right to determine what happens to the school and the property.

Kevin Keenan explained, “It’s very important for people to be focusing their effort on registering their children to register at other elementary schools because in these situations the idea that these schools is providing false hope to the students and the school families.”

Keenan told News 4 that unless the students and faculty plan to use another facility and run the school entirely on their own there is no longer a possibility the school will be open through the Diocese in September.

Saltarelli is appealing through the Vatican and told News 4 the parish won’t support the school building unless it’s home to a school.

“I am not subsidizing empty buildings. There’s going to be a school in these school buildings and if the Diocese doesn’t want us we will find other ways to operate and we will be operating as a Catholic elementary school,” Saltarelli said.

Financially, Saltarelli says the school can sustain itself. As far as the building goes, that will be a legal fight, and he’s not concerned about their affiliation to the Diocese, citing several independent Catholic schools in the region.

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