|Posted by keshiaclukey on May 9, 2013 at 7:35 PM|
ROME - With a little more than a month until the end of the school year, Amy Costello doesn't know where her son will attend school in September.
Cody, 15, would have stayed at Rome Catholic Junior-Senior High School for 11th grade, but after Wednesday's announcement of its closure, that's no longer an option.
"I don't know in the future," said Amy Costello, a Blossvale resident. "Obviously, finances play a large part."
Her oldest daughter will graduate from Rome Catholic next month, and her two third-graders will remain at Rome Catholic Elementary School.
But Cody is in limbo.
The Rome school is one of at least four Catholic high schools closing statewide due to declining enrollment, said Carol Geddis, executive director of the Catholic School Administrators Association of New York State.
"I'm sure a lot of it is the economics of it," Geddis said. "I think when parents are looking ahead to college and how expensive it is … and their own retirement systems, all those things come into play."
The closure was part of a long-term discussion, said Danielle Cummings, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.
She said all Catholic elementary schools in Utica, Rome and Oneida will feed into Notre Dame in Utica for junior-senior high school.
"This configuration we feel is the best way to help all students in the Eastern Region be able to attend and pursue a Catholic education," Cummings said.
Coming up short
Rome Catholic has been working on a strategic plan since 2011 focusing on increasing development efforts, enrollment and retaining students, Cummings said.
The junior-senior high school was given a mid-April deadline to meet a benchmark of having 100 to 110 students enrolled at the school, but with only 68 students and 11 graduating this year, the school had a long way to go.
"The bishop extended as long a timeline as he possibly could to the Rome Catholic community to meet the benchmarks," Cummings said. "They did a great effort."
Costello was one of the many trying to help increase enrollment. She said they recruited 19 new students for next year, "but numbers were not high enough."
"It would have been really nice if they had given us that extra chance. ... If they'd had a little faith in us," Costello said.
Rome Catholic parents will have to weigh their options over the next few months, including any changes in tuition going from one Catholic high school to another, their students having a longer bus ride to Utica, or whether to switch their students to public school.
Typically, 50 percent of the students go to the remaining Catholic school while the other 50 percent attend public school, Geddis said.
Rome schools, Notre Dame ready
The Rome City School District and Notre Dame will be able to accommodate the influx of students and already have gotten calls from interested parents, school officials said.
"We open up our building to as many children who want to come here," said Notre Dame Principal Sister Anna Mae Collins.
Busing will be provided to Rome students who chose to attend Notre Dame, as well as a $1,000 transition scholarship, Cummings said.
The Rome City School District also welcomes students.
"We will work with parents and staff of Rome Catholic to make sure any parents seeking to enroll their students will have a very positive and successful transition," said district Superintendent Jeffrey Simons.
For now, families still are trying to get over the shock.
Costello and her family are devastated, she said.
"At a time when the church is really trying to pull those younger families back to their faith … and the world is falling apart ... I think it's terrible that we're losing another Catholic school," Costello said. "It's like a death in the family."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse on Wednesday announced Rome Catholic Junior-Senior High School will close at the end of the school year due to declining enrollment.
The school community was given the opportunity to meet enrollment benchmarks of having 100 to 110 students enrolled at the school for the 2013-14 school year. They were not met.
Catholic elementary schools in Utica, Rome and Oneida will remain open — with Notre Dame Junior-Senior High as the sole Catholic high school in the area.
Notre Dame and the Rome City School District have said they can accommodate the Rome Catholic students at their schools with minimal impacts.
Notre Dame staff will be working with Rome Catholic to help transition students.
The Rome City School District is working on open house and orientation opportunities for parents and students interested in attending Notre Dame. Information will be released soon.
The Syracuse diocese will be offering $1,000 transition scholarships to Rome Catholic students who chose to attend Notre Dame.
By the numbers
Rome Catholic Junior-Senior High School currently has 68 students enrolled in grades seven through 12.
Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School has about 355 students enrolled in grades seven through 12. That number has increased by about 24 students since the 2011-12 school year.
Tuition at Rome Catholic Junior-High School is $4,305 for seven and eighth graders, and $5,305 for grades nine through 12, but varies based on eligibility for financial aid.
Tuition at Notre Dame high school for grades seven and eight is $4,300 per year, and nine through 12 is $5,300 per year, not including fees. This also varies for financial aid.
Source: Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School; Rome City School District Superintendent Jeffrey Simons; Danielle Cummings, Syracuse diocese assistant chancellor and director of communications.