It took Krystal Molta, a junior at St. Pius V High School awhile to believe that her school might not exist next year.
She was shocked to learn when she and her fellow students arrived at their school on Courtland Avenue in November that the Archdiocese of New York planned to close the all-girls Catholic school.
“People started talking about it and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It was really a shock to me,” Molta said.
St. Pius is one of the 32 schools — and the only high school – slated for closing. Despite its reputation for academic success and small class sizes, enrollment is declining and tuition is rising at the Mott Haven school. That makes in increasingly dependent on the Archdiocese for funding, said Fran Davies, Assistant Superintendent for Communications in Education.
According to Davies, St. Pius was the only parish high school in the diocese to have problems in both areas. The enrollment trend is “markedly down,” she said, while “financial need is markedly up.”
The school’s principal, Sister Mary Jo Lynch, blames rising costs. Half the school’s students need and receive some form of financial aid, she said in a statement. In addition, charter schools have cut into the school’s enrollment.
While charter schools “are for the most part, untried, they are free,” the principal said. “If students are accepted, they offer a viable alternative to neighborhood public schools which are often deemed unsafe.”
The students, in general, were upset by the news.
“Everybody was shocked. Everybody was crying,” said freshman Amanda Lee Gonzalez.
Parents were also disappointed.
“I’m really upset with it,” said Janet Gonzalez, Amanda’s mother. She said it would be sad to see the school close, especially because her daughter liked the school and was doing well. She also said that she appreciated the school’s small size and that the principal knew all the students.
“Really, I’m kind of worried,” said Elizabeth Nunez, the mother of another freshman. She said that she didn’t know where her daughter would go next year if the school closed
According to Davies, students displaced by the school closings would be guaranteed admission to other, nearby schools. She said the archdiocese would assist families in their search.
For the girls of St. Pius, however, there are only three nearby Catholic high schools, and two are all-boys schools. Aquinas High School, another all-girls school, is about three and a half miles away.
Principals and pastors of the 32 schools the archdiocese has classified as “at-risk” will have opportunity to make the case for keeping their schools open, said Davies.
Faculty members declined to comment, saying that they wanted to stay out of the controversy. Sister Lynch also declined to elaborate on her written statement, explaining that she did not want to say anything that would put the school’s future in jeopardy.
However, she was willing to praise her students. “They come from hard homes, some of them, but they’re motivated,” she said.