St. Pancras Reverend Francis Hughes and school principal Diana Soto sent out a letter to parents last Wednesday notifying them about the impending closure on June 30. They attributed the “difficult decision” to financial challenges and declining enrollment.
According to Brooklyn Diocese spokeswoman Carolyn Erstad, enrollment has been cut in half from 204 students in 2012 to just 105 students this year. The cost per student is more than $6,000 per year, while the tuition per student is $4,880 a year.
Despite more than $500,000 given by the Catholic Foundation and Futures in Education to assist families in need, the school is “no longer financially viable,” she said.
St. Pancras is projected to have a $252,000 deficit for this school year.
“Obviously, this situation is not sustainable, even with the added subsidy from the parish,” Hughes and Soto wrote in the letter, “and significant fundraising efforts from fewer and fewer families.”
Hughes added that the parish also cannot subsidize the school at the risk of other parish programs and ministries.
“To attempt to continue the school while further curtailing academic services and extracurricular activities would be a serious disservice to your sons and daughters,” they said. “Also, the necessary staff constructions would contribute to the deterioration of the total educational program.”
Erstad noted that 60 percent of declining enrollment at Brooklyn Diocese schools is due to families moving out of New York City. Another 20 percent is attributed to families who can’t afford tuition.
Overall, the diocese’s schools have lost 1,105 students since last year, Erstad said.
In light of the closure, Erstad said students at St. Pancras are welcome to enroll in any other Catholic academy in the diocese, and would automatically receive a $500 tuition assistance grant. The grant is provided by Futures in Education, a related nonprofit that provides financial assistance to students seeking a Catholic education.
The closest Catholic school to St. Pancras is Sacred Heart Academy in Glendale, which is 1.2 miles away. Other options are St. Matthias, which is 1.6 miles away, and Notre Dame Catholic Academy, which is 2.5 miles away, both in Ridgewood, or St. Margaret School in Middle Village, which is also 2.5 miles away.
Another option is St. Stanislaus in Maspeth, which is 2.1 miles away.
In their letter to the parents, Hughes and Soto said St. Matthias and Sacred Heart have both “extended an invitation to each family.”
As for the teachers and staff, Erstad said the diocese will work to place them at other academies and schools. The total teacher workforce in its 84 schools decreases about 10 percent each year, she said, so placing another 10 teachers should not be an issue.
For now, Erstad said there are no immediate plans for future use of the building at St. Pancras. However, a pre-Kindergarten program that is operating there now will remain, she said.
All school programs and activities will go uninterrupted through the end of the year.
St. Pancras School is hosting an informational night on Wednesday, January 17, at 7:30 p.m. to answer questions from parents and students. Administrators from neighboring Catholic schools will be there as well.
“The closure of a school is not an easy experience for anyone concerned,” Hughes and Soto said. “However, an understanding on your part of the efforts that have been made and will continue to be made on behalf of your sons and daughters will make the experience easier for them and for us to handle.”
In a statement, State Senator Joseph Addabbo said he was saddened to see another Catholic school forced to close.
“St. Pancras has been educating children and growing the Catholic faith in Glendale for over 100 years, and it is a shame to see that come to an end,” he said. “I am concerned for the students and parents as they decide an educational direction after St. Pancras.
“As enrollment dips in more and more Catholic schools, I fear that the option of religious education may become a part of the past,” Addabbo added. “I hope to see the students of St. Pancras return to another Catholic school at the start of the next school year in an effort to keep Catholic education alive.”