Niagara Gazette

January 15, 2014

Catholic Diocese plan keeps Niagara County schools open

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

After three years of exhaustive research, collaboration and consultation concerning the future of Catholic education in Western New York, Bishop Richard J. Malone announced ten elementary schools outside the City of Buffalo will close prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

All schools in Niagara County, including three in Lewiston – Stella Niagara, St. Peter's School and Sacred Heart Villa School – and two in Niagara Falls – Catholic Academy and the junior high school portion of Niagara Catholic Junior/Senior High School – survived the cutdown and will remain open through next school year, the diocese revealed.

Schools closing in June are Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Elma, Fourteen Holy Helpers School in West Seneca, Our Lady of Pompeii School in Lancaster, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and St. Bernadette schools in Orchard Park, St. Francis of Assisi School in Tonawanda, St. Joseph School in Gowanda, St. Leo the Great School in Amherst, St. Mary of the Lake School in Hamburg and St. Vincent dePaul School in Spring Brook.

"Regarding the school closures, this will be a difficult decision for many to accept, but these reductions are necessary and will allow us to sustain and eventually strengthen our remaining Catholic elementary schools," Bishop Malone said. "This is an important responsibility I bear as bishop. I am grateful to the Catholic School Advisory Council, pastors, principals and other lay advisors who spent a tremendous amount of time and effort during this planning effort."

Pastors, principals, parents and other stakeholders met in cluster meetings between October and December 2013 to discuss the possible closings. Along with a committee of the diocese's advisory council, they developed the recommendations that were approved by Bishop Malone.

The closings are part of the diocese's Faith in Tomorrow campaign, which will put the focus for the remaining schools on transitioning into community schools, governed by lay advisory boards of limited jurisdiction that will work with pastors on budgeting, administrative hiring and evaluation, and other school operations, the diocese said Wednesday.

"Catholic education will continue to be a primary ministry of the Diocese of Buffalo," Bishop Malone said. "The revitalization of our schools will result in increased average enrollment in the remaining schools, enabling a greater percentage of diocesan and parish investment in Catholic education to support programming, rather than building and overhead expenses. This increased investment will create additional academic and extracurricular opportunities for our students."