that in Sayville will close next June has parents upset by the decision and has some vowing to work to save the school while demanding answers from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Officials with the Diocese announced Tuesday that it would close six of its 53 elementary schools on Long Island at the end of the 2011-12 school year due to declining enrollment and other issues.
However, Prince of Peace parents said they will not accept the decision without a fight and plan to hold a peaceful protest at the school on Saturday at 9 a.m., according to Holtsville resident Marguerite Hachem, a parent of two students at the school.
“We need our voices to be heard, this is our second home,” she said. “We won’t go down quietly, but we will rally peacefully.”
Sean P. Dolan, director of communications for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said the Diocese evaluated every single school on the ability of that school to provide and sustain a quality Catholic educational program.
An advisory committee looked at and analyzed enrollment, demographic changes at each school, the age of students in the area, the financial situation of the school and parish and reviewed each school building, its technology and other programs offered, Dolan said.
“Through these lenses the advisory committee determined each school's viability into the future,” Dolan said. “They also asked 'would there be a nearby school for the students?' That’s how they made the recommendation to close the six schools and the strategic collaboration for the others."
Hachem said the announcement came as an absolute shock to parents of Prince of Peace students.
According to parents who gathered at the school for early dismissal Wednesday, the school is financially stable, the building is in good shape, enrollment is up (this year) and the kids are performing well academically.
Lisa Manzo of Oakdale, who has two children enrolled at Prince of Peace, said the reasons the Diocese provided for closing don’t apply to Prince of Peace.
While the school has seen a 24 percent decrease in enrollment over 10 years — 179 students in 2000-01 down to 136 in 2011-12 — parents said Prince of Peace is in better shape all around than the five other schools the Diocese announced will be closed next June.
“We have the technology, we have the enrollment, we have the finances,” Manzo said. “It doesn’t fit.”
Bayport resident Maura Mains said parents were devastated by the announcement. Her son Sean, a sixth-grader, has attended Prince of Peace since kindergarten.
“It’s like waking up to one family and then going to your other family,” Sean Mains said about going to school.
Maura Mains emphasized the negative effects closing Prince of Peace will have on students and parents alike.
“The Diocese needs to know the damage this is doing,” she said. “We need better answers from them.”
Ed Mitchell, a Bayport resident whose son is a third grader at Prince of Peace, recalled that the Diocese attempted to close the school eight years ago. However, parents and officials with the Diocese came to an agreement that would allow the school to remain open and teach through eighth grade, rather than through sixth.
“The agreement was that parents would contribute a sizeable sum to fund part of the operating budget,” Mitchell said. “This was far above and beyond the normal fundraisers."
The group of parents said they would be willing to again consider a similar agreement. Manzo said she wishes the Diocese would've offered the school the opportunity to bring their (enrollment) numbers up.
"This was a nameless, faceless decision," Manzo said. "They're destroying a family."
Hachem added, "We're willing to do whatever we can. We've listened to every challenge they've given us so far."
Amanda Fiscina contributed to this story.