The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced Monday that it will consolidate two Catholic elementary schools in Cutchogue and Riverhead and close Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead because the schools “are no longer viable.”
According to the Diocese, “enrollment at the three schools, all on the eastern end of the island, has fallen 37 percent since 2011. The high school alone was subsidized $16.3 million from 2007 through last school year and is expected to require an additional $2.3 million in support this school year.”
The diocese will combine Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue and St. Isidore School in Riverhead into a new Nursery through Grade 8 school on the St. Isidore site, renamed St. John Paul II Regional School. Students at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in Riverhead will be offered enrollment at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. The diocese plans to provide transportation, guidance counseling and tuition grants to students who continue their Catholic school education.
The three schools will close at the end of the current school year in June, and St. John Paul II Regional School on the St. Isadore’s site will open in September, 2018.
“We recognize the pain and disruption that this decision causes for our beloved school families,” said Diocese of Rockville Center Bishop John O. Barres. “It is a decision that is heartbreaking to our students, their parents and families, our dedicated faculty, administrators and staff, and of course our parishes that are impacted. We will be supporting our students and families, and our employees, throughout this transition with spiritual and pastoral care, as well as the practical and timely information that is needed through consistent and ongoing communication.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy, with a total enrollment of 365 in Grade 7 to 12 and 312 students in Grades 9 to 12, expects to graduate 91 students in June. The school has registered only 55 students for the incoming freshman class of September 2018, according to the Diocese.
St. Isidore School, with 104 enrolled students in Kindergarten through eighth grade, is expected to require a subsidy from the parish and diocese of approximately $475,000 for this school year.
At Our Lady of Mercy Regional in Cutchogue, enrollment has declined to 53 students in Kindergarten through sixth grade with just three students in the first grade. The school is anticipated to require a subsidy from the supporting parishes and diocese of approximately $600,000 for the current school year.
“Strengthening enrollment at St. John Paul II Regional School in Riverhead and at our remaining diocesan high schools will create a more vibrant and effective Catholic educational environment,” said Dr. Kathleen Walsh, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. “We are deeply committed to providing the best Catholic educational experience possible across all 55 elementary and secondary schools in the diocese.”
The diocese has developed staffing and logistical plans and will be sharing details at informational meetings and open houses. In addition, the diocese has set up a hotline (516.280.4124) and website, www.eastendcatholicschools.org),where parents, students, faculty and staff can go for additional information.
Plans for the new St. John Paul II Regional School in Riverhead include an enhanced Early Childhood Education Center, a strengthened elementary education program and middle-school academy featuring a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) curriculum. STREAM schools integrate Catholic identity into all aspects of the curriculum and have a focus on problem solving, group collaboration and independent research.
“While we sincerely regret having to take these actions, we remain dedicated to the mission of Catholic education,” said Bishop Barres. “We recognize the critical role that Catholic education plays in the formation of the next generation of Catholic laypeople and clergy. We will do everything we can to strengthen the long-term viability of our Catholic educational system on Long Island, in keeping with our vision of a revitalized church in service to our people and our communities.”