BUFFALO, NY (WIVB)- Parents and students are bringing the fight to save catholic schools in western New York straight to Bishop Richard Malone. They were protesting right in front of his house Sunday morning. Protesters are upset with the Diocese’s plan to close 10 of the 45 catholic schools at the end of this year. “No one wants to hear that their school is closing, but no one wants to be treated this way,” said St. Bernadette parent Julie Cox.
Hundreds of catholic school parents and students rallied in front of Bishop Richard Malone’s home. They’re demanding they be heard. They want their schools to stay open. “We feel like the cycle has to stop. You close schools, you lose students, that affects the parishes, parishes end up closing, you lose more Catholics, that means fewer Catholics enrolling in school and you close more schools,” said St. Vincent DePaul parent Jennifer Morgan.
Morgan’s 6 year-old attends St. Vincent DePaul. She says once the school closes, there won’t be a single catholic school remaining for those who live in Elma. “We don’t understand why everything has to be so black and white. If you want to save schools why don’t you come to the table with the schools and say how can we make you successful? How can we save the schools?” said Morgan.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Sister Carol Cimino, says what is black and white is a declining population of youth in Western New York. Looking to the future, Sister Cimino says there aren’t enough students to support the current 45 schools. Camino explained that over the last 5 years enrollment has declined in public schools also, “There are 29 school districts in Erie County, they have lost 10,000 kids, so that had to affect us too.”
Cimino says they need schools appropriately sized for the enrollment, something they’ve been planning for years. Currently she says the tuition for students is far below what it costs per pupil. Adding, some parishes are putting all of their money into the schools and some teachers are making major sacrifices. “We had in one of those schools teachers were earning less than $20,000 a year and they’d been in the school ten years. That’s not just,” said Cimino.
Morgan is wishing the parents’ concerns would have been heard before deciding which schools to shut down. “You’re paying for an education. So just saying you can go here – it has to be a school that fits your needs as a parent and for your children,” said Morgan.
Sister Cimino says so far they have a 80% retention rate for students who will be staying in Catholic schools with the closures.