ELMA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Parents fighting to merge a pair of closing Catholic schools in the Southtowns have lost that battle.
Bishop Richard Malone has rejected the consolidation of Annunciation and St. Vincent de Paul schools in Elma. The diocese tells News 4 there was no compelling evidence to keep the schools open. That decision leaves parents saying they have no choice but to leave the Catholic school system.
Though the bishop did approve a plan to turn Annunciation into an early childhood center for pre-schoolers, the rejection of a merger means there will be no Catholic elementary school in Elma.
In total, there were 250 students in both schools. And though there are several Catholic schools within 10 miles of the town, Lisa Meegan, principal at St. Vincent de Paul, says many of them are full and others are still out of reach for some parents.
“More than half are struggling to find a school that fits their needs, not just for transportation reasons, but for academic and health reasons,” Meegan said.
Marlene Lamparelli is one of those parents. Her family lives in Attica. Next year, her three children who currently attend the Annunciation School will have to transfer to public schools.
She said, “It’s disappointing. I had Catholic education right through college. All I really wanted was to provide that same experience for my kids. But I feel that the Diocese has turned it’s back on us.”
It’s also a disappointing end to Meegan’s 37-year career with the diocese.
“A lot of people have committed their career to Catholic education and it leaves a lot of people without jobs now and a lot of families without a school option,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Diocese says they are working with parents to find alternative schools. That spokesperson reiterated that closing these schools are necessary because of rising costs and dwindling enrollment.
The Diocese would not go into details about why plan to merge schools in Elma was rejected.