Only two days after the Archdiocese of New York announced that St. Joseph’s in Kingston is on their list of schools “at risk” of being closed down, a teacher was hunched over a glass-enclosed sign, changing the letters to encourage parents to reserve a spot for the 2013-14 school year.
On Monday, Nov. 26, the archdiocese announced a strategy to reconfigure its Catholic school system for most parish elementary schools so as to align into geographic regions governed by boards, rather than operate individually. Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties together will comprise one such region. The Boards and Reconfiguration Committees comprised of clergy and laypeople have determined 26 out of 159 regionalized, parish and archdiocesan elementary schools to be “at-risk of closure” in June 2013 after analyzing and reviewing a “snapshot” of each school’s zip code based on its enrollment, financials, academic status and local demographics.
Highland’s longtime beloved St. Augustine School did not survive it’s time on 2010’s endangered list, closing the doors forever at the conclusion of the school year. This time around, Sacred Heart School in Newburgh and St. Mary of the Snow School in Saugerties join St. Joe’s in the archdiocese’s seemingly real-life academic version of The Hunger Games.
According to Fran Davies, associate superintendent for communications and marketing for the Archdiocese’s Department of Education, the next step of the process is for community leaders, pastors and officials of the at-risk elementary schools to meet with their local board or reconfiguration committee to hash-out the combination of factors that led the school to be so designated. During this time, the school will be able to present any additional factors and plans for long-term sustainability for consideration. (Davies said she was not acquainted with St. Joseph’s particular demographics.) The final decisions by the local boards and reconfiguration committees will be made in January 2013.
“The context for the plan is not the same as it was two years ago,” said Davies in response when asked about the success of the plan St. Joe’s set forth two years ago to avoid being shut down. Part of the school’s plan involved increasing enrollment by 10 percent, expanding its outreach, stronger fundraising programs and fostering more diversity. Since that plan, St. Joseph’s K-8 enrollment has overwhelmingly surpassed that goal by shooting-up 34 percent, school officials said. Eighty-three new students enrolled during the 2012-13 school year alone — 29 from the recently reconfigured Onteora school district. Far more are now possible due to the coming closure of three Kingston Central School District elementary schools, as well as the unpopular decision of adding fifth-grade to the district’s middle schools. “We encourage the dialogue between the school and community,” said Davies, but couldn’t comment further on what exactly St. Joseph’s needed to do to stay in the game. She explained that the review committee examined financial, academic, local demographics and the number of Catholic families in the area likely to send kids to school now and in the future.