10 N.J. Catholic schools to close as officials cite drop in enrollment

Posted May 07, 2020

Ten Catholic schools - nine elementary and one high school around northern New Jersey - will close at the end of the academic year, the Archdiocese of Newark announced Thursday.

Academy of St. Therese of Lisieux in Cresskill, St. Anne School in Fair Lawn, Trinity Academy in Caldwell, Good Shepherd Academy in Irvington, Our Lady Help of Christians School in East Orange, St. James the Apostle School in Springfield, The Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Providence, Holy Spirit School in Union, St. Genevieve School in Elizabeth and Cristo Rey Newark High School will shut down, according to a news release.

The ten schools will continue online learning through the end of the year, in line with Gov. Phil Murphy’s order aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the state, officials said

“We recognize that this is an incredibly sad time for our school communities, especially during this pandemic crisis,” Barbara Dolan, acting superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Newark, said. “Every effort will be made to find a Catholic school for those families interested in continuing to provide a Catholic education for their children in the next academic year.”

The Archdiocese said financial support to its Catholic elementary schools would total about $80 million over the next five years under current conditions. Officials cited “unsustainable levels of subsidy” brought on by sharp enrollment declines as factors that threaten the operations of schools.

“Factors considered by the Schools Strategy Committee in assessing the situation at these schools included declining enrollment numbers and increasing and unsustainable dependence on archdiocesan funding over time," the Archdiocese said in a statement. "Consideration also was given to geographic locations and proximity to nearby matched archdiocesan schools that will accommodate new students.”

Other dioceses have also announced school closures. Last month, officials announced five South Jersey Catholic schools would be shuttered, citing financial troubles worsened by the pandemic and sinking enrollment.

In Thursday’s announcement, officials noted the decision to close the latest 10 schools was not “directly linked” to impacts of the virus outbreak, but the pandemic only weakened the financial position of the institutions.

“Nationwide, changing demographics and increased competition from public and secular private schools have contributed to ongoing declines in Catholic school enrollment, decreasing the long-term viability of many school communities,” the Archdiocese of Newark said in a statement.

The state’s coronavirus-related restrictions on gatherings prevented school officials from informing parents and students in person, but the Archdiocese said families were notified this week. Officials said support efforts were underway and would continue over the coming weeks.

For teachers, principals and other staff, the Archdiocese said it was working with a career service to “support their search for new opportunities inside or outside of the Archdiocese.”

It was not immediately clear how many employees and students were impacted by the closures.

“I want to acknowledge the pain experienced by the students and their families, teachers, staff, administrators, pastors, and parishioners, and all who are affected by these difficult decisions,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, said. “We are committed to placing these students into nearby archdiocesan schools, all of which are fully prepared to welcome them, accommodate them, and provide them with a continuing, outstanding Catholic education.”

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