Catholic schools face closure

Even before the global pandemic shuttered catholic schools around the state, the Archdiocese of Newark was already closing and consolidating others. From Cresskill to Caldwell and East Orange to Elizabeth, one high school and nine elementary schools are slated for closure in the Newark diocese.

Megan August is a mother of four boys, all of whom attend St. Therese in Cresskill.

“We always know the risk is there. But when you have a community that’s so tight and really flourishes with each other — and we take pride in our fundraising and things like that — not only do you not expect it to come to your school, but you clearly don’t expect it in a time like we’re in today,” August said.

With 130 kids, including pre-k, and an average tuition of $6,900, St. Therese probably looks healthy enough to an outsider. But the archdiocese says enrollment is down across all of its schools. August is directly involved in meetings with the archdiocese, which she says have lately been positive.

“We put a petition out there. We have over 3,400 supporters, many of which have written letters for us. We are up to $250,000 in donations to help carry us into next year so that we can strategize a better plan financially, going forward,” she said.

In a statement Archbishop Joseph Tobin says, “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.”

August says the point is to show the archdiocese that St. Therese can go it alone.

Over in the Paterson Diocese, parents at St. Mary’s in Pompton Lakes were taking a more direct approach by staging a socially distant protest. They say say they were left in the dark and didn’t know a closing was imminent until they got an email blast last week. They, too, are asking the diocese for a chance to save their school.

“Schools are expensive, but this is a very vibrant parent community. Last year we were asked to raise $600,000 for repairs and within a matter of months we had it raised. If they would give us a number – just give us a number that we need to keep the school open – and let us decide,” said Ringwood resident Denise Dorgan.

“We have always been told that we are in good financial standing. If that’s not the truth, then we want to see the numbers. We want to see the financials. None of our questions have been answered. We’ve sent out emails, we’ve asked to meet with people, and, to date, we have gotten no reply,” said Pompton Lakes resident Maria Salvanto.

Silence from the diocese is a common complaint. NJTV News received no comment from the Paterson Diocese.

Late last week August confirmed that talks with the Newark Archdiocese had come to an end — St. Therese will be closing this year.

Correction 6/4: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Marist High School was closed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. The decision to close the school was not made by the Archdiocese but by the Marist Brothers of the Schools, the religious order that owns the school.  Marist High School is independent of the Archdiocese.