Difficult Decision Will Strengthen Schools, Safeguard Future of Catholic Education; At-Home Learning Continues Through End of School Year
The Archdiocese of Newark has announced the consolidation of its school community and the closure of nine archdiocesan-operated elementary schools at the end of this school year, the result of archdiocesan strategic planning efforts to strengthen the overall school program and ensure a sustainable future for Catholic education in the Archdiocese. Cristo Rey Newark High School, a member of the Cristo Rey Network®, also will close due to lack of operational viability, as per a resolution adopted by the school’s Board.
The elementary schools are:
- Academy of St. Therese of Lisieux, Cresskill
- St. Anne School, Fair Lawn
- Trinity Academy, Caldwell
- Good Shepherd Academy, Irvington
- Our Lady Help of Christians School, East Orange
- St. James the Apostle School, Springfield
- The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, New Providence
- Holy Spirit School, Union
- St. Genevieve School, Elizabeth
All ten schools will remain active through the end of the school year, with lessons and assignments continuing to be administered via distance learning platforms in compliance with the statewide mandate.
The announcement follows similar decisions by other Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the region. 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.
Under present circumstances, archdiocesan financial support to its Catholic elementary schools would total approximately $80 million in the next five years. Unsustainable levels of subsidy, a result of significant enrollment decreases, have affected the continued operational standing of a number of school communities. Continued financial support at this level would diminish the Archdiocese’s ability to strategically reinvest in strengthening Catholic education overall. The decision to pursue closure for these school communities was made after considerable review and planning by the Archdiocese of Newark’s FY’20 Schools Strategy Committee, comprised of religious and lay professionals, which included education experts with in-depth knowledge of Catholic education and the local situation.
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. Consideration also was given to geographic locations and proximity to nearby matched archdiocesan schools that will accommodate new students.
“We recognize that this is an incredibly sad time for our school communities, especially during this pandemic crisis,” said Barbara Dolan, Acting Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark. “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 process to identify affected schools and pursue this plan began before the COVID-19 crisis, and the decision is not directly linked to the pandemic. Archdiocesan officials noted, however, that the crisis has further weakened the economic position of the schools and other ministries.
Due to continued pandemic-related restrictions on in-person gatherings and the statewide closure of school buildings, the Archdiocese was unable to pursue its original plan of in-person notification to faculty and staff. School communities and staff received notifications this week via videoconferencing and emailed letters.
A comprehensive support effort, including the distribution of a Parent and Student Support Guide and other resources for the school community, will begin in May and will continue in the coming months.
- For families and students transitioning to new archdiocesan school communities in the upcoming academic year, the Archdiocese will provide special tuition assistance for the first year, where appropriate, in addition to educational resources to help families make decisions for their students’ continued Catholic education.
- Taking into consideration the specific needs of some families with students with disabilities, the Archdiocese has developed additional resources to help those families understand the levels of support that new Catholic school communities will provide in comparison to the services offered at their former schools.
- For affected principals, teachers, and staff, the Archdiocese has partnered with a career services organization to support their search for new opportunities inside or outside of the Archdiocese.
- The Archdiocese will provide financial and logistical support to parishes, including consideration for students who attend religious education classes in closing school buildings.
- The Archdiocese will make available to parents and families its principals and schools strategy team members to explain processes related to the closure of schools and continuing their education at another Catholic school community (e.g., registration, records transfer).
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, expressed the Archdiocese’s sadness at the necessity of this decision.
“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,” said Cardinal Tobin. “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.”
Cardinal Tobin added: “This is a crucial time for the sustainability and success of our Catholic schools. They continue to be a priority for the Archdiocese of Newark. However, the Archdiocese could not ignore the dual threats of declining enrollment and rapidly increased subsidies that were necessary to sustain every school.”
Archdiocesan officials emphasized the Archdiocese’s continued commitment to the future of Catholic education and the hope that students and families will choose to continue their Catholic education within the Archdiocese of Newark.
“By consolidating into fewer schools, we make each school stronger and more viable, and help ensure that our mission will be sustained,” added Dolan.
School building properties are owned by the local parishes with which schools are affiliated. Any financial benefit realized from any future rental or sale of a school building would remain at the parish level or would be reinvested to strengthen the schools program and help support the continuation of Catholic education. Any school funds available following closure will remain with the affiliated parish.
About the Archdiocese of Newark – The Archdiocese of Newark serves approximately 1.3 million Catholics who reside in the 511 square miles of the four counties it serves: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties. Comprised of 212 Catholic parishes, the Archdiocese is shepherded by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., who was appointed Archbishop of Newark on November 7, 2016, and elevated to Cardinal by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on November 19, 2016. Cardinal Tobin was installed as Archbishop of Newark on January 6, 2017. For more “Facts and Figures,” click on the “About Us” tab at www.rcan.org.