A Catholic elementary school in Ringwood has abruptly closed after 70 years due to declining enrollment.
The pastor of the parish operating the St. Catherine of Bologna School gave parents the news late last week.
“It is with a heavy heart and a saddened spirit that I must share the news with you that St. Catherine of Bologna School must close its doors,” the Rev. Pawel Szurek wrote in a letter dated last Thursday and provided Monday to NJ Advance Media.
The shutdown of the school, which was founded in 1948 and enrolled students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, took effect on Friday.
For advocates of Catholic education, it was a sad yet familiar outcome. Catholic schools in New Jersey and nationwide have been grappling with declining enrollment and related financial problems for years.
Richard Sokerka, spokesman for the Diocese of Paterson, said it is the third school in the region to close this year. The others, St. Andrew the Apostle School in Clifton and St. Pius X School in Montville, shut down last month.
The Diocese of Paterson includes 109 parishes in Passaic, Morris and Sussex counties. Sokerka said no schools closed in 2017.
Parents of students at St. Catherine of Bologna School had been aware that that school’s future was in jeopardy, even amid the yearlong celebration of its 70th anniversary.
At a June 20 meeting, they were told that the school would not open in September if fewer than 112 students were enrolled by the end of July, Szurek said in his letter.
There were 164 students enrolled during the prior school year, according to the Diocese of Paterson.
On July 4, last Wednesday, the school was still making an effort to survive and staffed an information booth at the farmers’ market in West Milford. However, by the following day, Szurek had determined that there was no viable path forward.
“The enrollment as of today’s date is 94 and is continuing to decline, not to grow,” Szurek wrote.
“Sadly, the financial burden caused by a significant drop in enrollment below sustainable levels has become our reality. Without sufficient enrollment, and with continued major financial deficits, we cannot continue,” the pastor added.
“I know how much the school community and parishioners love our school. I am sorry that there is no other alternative,” Szurek said.
Szurek praised the efforts of all who served the school over the decades.
“We have built a legacy imbued with a rich Catholic education that will follow all the students from prior years to the future,” he wrote.