090319 Niagara Catholic

James Neiss/staff photographer Niagara Falls, NY - Niagara Catholic High School volunteers, from left, Nancy Nelson, Herb Nelson, Patti Rougeux, Mari Boland and Cindy Williams, prepare letters to alumnus and alumna, warning that immediate financial support is needed to keep the school open. The first sentence of the letter reads, �t is with profound sadness and deepest regret that we announce our beloved St. Mary�, Bishop Duffy, Madonna, and Niagara Catholic will close forever on June 30, 2009 without your immediate financial support.�

Niagara County’s only Catholic high school is facing a daunting challenge — overcoming a $250,000 budget deficit by

June 30.

If the deficit is not erased by that date, the school will close.

Principal Robert M. DiFrancesco prefers to remain optimistic Niagara Catholic’s “family” will rise to the challenge. “Niagara Catholic is not closing, we’re doing everything we can to keep it viable,” he said Thursday.

The school is trying to reduce the deficit, including trimming staff and operating costs. The tuition is also being increased to $6,700 next year, up from $5,600.

This is not a time to run, rather a time to come together as a family to save Niagara Catholic High School,” DiFrancesco said. “We truly believe that if we can be successful in the next two months that we can make it in the long run.”

Niagara Catholic has had an illustrious history in Niagara Falls. The school came into existence in 1975 after the former Bishop Duffy and Madonna high schools merged together. Though the school has always been known for its academic excellence — 100 percent of its seniors graduated last year and 99 percent went on to college — it hasn’t been immune to the dwindling local economy and drastic drop in Catholic education enrollment over the past decade.

DiFrancesco said Niagara Catholic’s student population has gone from 220 to 160 since 2004. That, coupled with increasing operating costs and a swift reduction in aid from the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, has helped build the current $250,000 deficit. If nothing changes and the school stays open, the deficit is projected to reach $750,000 by June 2010.

A campaign has begun to solicit funds from alumni and community members and

efforts to recruit new students continues.

It would be a shame to see this institution close. Now is the time to act.