‘Our children are the future of this faith’

Monroe. School community wants answers about decision to close Sacred Heart School.

| 15 Jul 2020 | 07:19

    To say Sacred Heart School parents and alumni are perplexed about the New York Archdiocese’s July 9 announcement about the school’s closure is, well, a huge understatement.

    Parents and students say they were blindsided by the announcement and never told there were financial issues with school operations or its enrollment numbers.

    They add that even during the last three months during this COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were closed statewide, there was never any communication about the school’s financial situation.

    In a statement, Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Deegan said the decision was based after “a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis.”

    Deegan added: “I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools. If more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.”

    ‘An important establishment in Monroe’

    Nancy Fajardo, whose family has been vested in the school for the last 41 years, was angered there was no transparency or advance notice from the Archdiocese.

    “It’s been a part of the Monroe community for many, many years, has an excellent academic reputation, a small classroom setting in a family environment,” Fajardo said. “It really has been an important establishment in Monroe for all these many, many years. It would have been nice if the Archdiocese was more transparent in their plans for Orange County and Catholic education.”

    Ellen Kelly, Fajardo’s sister and an educator herself, was livid about the way families were informed.

    “This is what the Archdiocese does not understand when only an email is sent to parents to tell their children,” she wrote on Facebook. “Children are people. They have feelings. These are the times to mold and build up our children to prepare them to be the future of our church. What was done by email was not OK.

    “If we had low registration, I could somewhat understand that,” she added in her post. “But that is not true. Our registration was actually one of the highest compared to all the schools in our county. We did not have as low class numbers as those that actually stayed open.”

    ‘Our children are the future of this faith’

    The grassroots movement to save the school includes a change.org petition and a growing number of followers on the newly renamed “Save Sacred Heart School Monroe, New York” Facebook page.

    A post on that page reads: “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at St. Stephen- St. Edwards School in Warwick. We seek to keep our schools open and not to cause a divided within our parish or with our pastors. We chose to send our children to Catholic schools for a number of reasons. Our children are the future of this faith. It’s our choice to pay tuition on top of school taxes and yet we were not given any options or notice by the Archdiocese of New York. We hope to have a diplomatic meeting with the Archdiocese of New York in the near future.”

    The Rev. David Rider, Sacred Heart Church’s pastor, also advised parishioners of the Archdiocese’s decision the same day the closures were announced.

    “Many of you – students, parents, alumni, friends, and benefactors of the school – are, quite understandably, experiencing sadness, hurt, and anger right now” he wrote in a letter which was also posted on the church’s Facebook page. “As your pastor, my heart breaks to see your hearts breaking. I share in your pain, and I am ready to help you carry the cross that has been placed on all of our shoulders today.”

    Rider noted Sacred Heart School has not been officially affiliated with Sacred Heart Parish since it was made a regional school in 2013.

    “While the pastors of Sacred Heart have provided spiritual support to the school over the last seven years, they have had no authority in its governance,” Rider added. “Given this arrangement, I was simply informed of this decision a few days ago, just like all of you were today.