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Prince of Peace Families Rally

More than 100 gather and march down Main Street Saturday in hopes of reversing decision to close Catholic school.

Chanting “Save Our School” and holding their signs high, students, parents, family and alumni gathered Saturday morning to protest the decision to close the Catholic school.

This past Tuesday, the Diocese of Rockville Centre to close the Sayville-based school this coming June because of declining enrollment. Six other Catholic schools across Long Island are also slated for closure at the end of the 2011-12 school year because of declining enrollment and other issues, the Diocese said.

are hopeful that the rally held outside the school is the first step in reversing the decision to close the Sayville Catholic school.

“We need to get the word out,” said Anthony Cantanese, a Sayville parent with two children at Prince of Peace. “We will be out here with our signs in March if that’s what it takes to keep the school open. We have a lot of pride in our school and they can’t take that away from us. Through protest and through prayer, we will be here to stay.”

Jeanne Opalinski, an Oakdale resident and parent of a fourth grader, said, "I’m just very sad about this. My daughter has been here since nursery school. We are like a close knit family and I don’t want that to change.”

Cantanese feels the statistics offered by the Diocese do not support the decision to close the school.

“There are buildings in our area that are in worse shape than ours. Prince of Peace is being closed because of its geographic location,” he added.

Jerry Noone of Blue Point, parent of a third grader and seventh grader, echoed the sentiment.

“This school has been around for a really long time and there’s just no reason for closing it,” he said. “There are schools in worse financial shape. I think there was a distinct lack of impartiality in making this decision. We are hoping this protest is the first step and after this, we will consolidate our efforts and keep moving forward.”

Enrollment numbers for the school are down 24 percent over the past 10 years, from 179 students in 2001 to 136 students in 2011. But that drop in enrollment doesn’t compare to the decline in enrollment in surrounding schools, parents say. What’s more, there are more than 200 students enrolled at Prince of Peace if the nursery school and pre-K students are factored in.

Eight years ago, Prince of Peace was at risk of closure and it was the parents who rallied the financial support to keep it operational.

“Eight years ago, the school troubles were dumped in the laps of the parents and we were told to fix it. We made a five-year plan and we fixed it and we got this school healthy again,” said Susan Connolly of Sayville, who had three children come through the school.

In the beginning of the year, Connolly said parents were told every school was on the table, and a study was being done by the Diocese.

“If this is a clear decision, where is the study?” she asked. “The Diocese conducted this study and we were told to keep quiet and wait. We did what we were asked to do. Now I feel like we got kicked in the teeth. The shrouding of secrecy is what upsets me the most. This school graduates kids at the top of their academic game.”

“The parents have not been given any hard statistics,” Cantanese added. “All of this was done behind closed doors.”

GRACE SHERMAN December 10, 2011 at 08:04 PM
The Diocese does not allow the inclusion of Nursery and Pre-K in the total headcount, but if allowed, our school is about 200. The Diocese states they educate thousands of children from Nursery through eigth grade in their elementary schools. So if they can count the Nursery and Pre-k, shouldn't all schools be able to count those numbers too? They are there paying tuition.....wo why not?
Kathleen V. December 11, 2011 at 03:28 AM
We marched proudly, and we were very touched by the community's show of support. So many people honked, waved, gave us thumbs up, and shouted out words of encouragement to us. Thank you, every last one of you!
Steve December 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Good job Kathleen. I'm a former St Lawrence student from the 60s and early 70s. Wish I could have been there to show my support. Moved to FL nine years ago but maintain my roots. Thanks for all you and all the others that were out there did today! Hoping your hard work keeps the school open!
Pete M December 12, 2011 at 02:55 AM
What are the plans for the building?
Kathleen December 12, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Do not dump this in the Parents Lap,we need to hold the church accountable. Why did they open the Bethaney center knowing the school was in financial distress? I have an idea why not ask the church to sell some of the gold and ornate objects and bail not only the school out but they could wipe out homelessness The church has plenty of money to go around
Pete M December 12, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Korvettes, Stern's, Caldor, Rickels, T.S.S, A&P, Roman Catholic Church, Grants, A&S, Billy Blake's, The Lamplighter, Genovese, Grand Union, etc, etc, e...t...c.......
JIM CARTER December 13, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Kathleen V. December 16, 2011 at 03:30 AM
I'm looking to get in touch with alumni. If you attended Prince of Peace, please contact me at SavePrinceOfPeaceRCS@gmail.com. Thank you!
Pete M December 16, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Really reminds me of England. Half the population is homeless and starving, and the Queen just installed a new 14 Karat toilet.


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