January 12, 2009

OLPH and OLA Schools to Close?

OLPH Basilica 60th & 5th, originally uploaded by radper11220.

Monday's NY Times reports that the Brooklyn Catholic Archiocese may close up to 14 schools , including Our Lady of Angels and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

No final decisions will be made until February, but these two elementary schools could close this June.

Closing these schools would be a devastating blow to what's left of Catholic life in Brooklyn.

I'm one of the few who attended both schools - I went to first and second grade at OLPH, third through eighth at OLA, bedeviling the nuns and brothers at both places.

It wasn't so long ago that these churches and their schools were mighty fortresses. They did an awful lot of good. They still do a lot of good. And I hope a way is found to keep them open.

from a release by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn:

It is proposed that 11 schools in the Diocese close at the conclusion of the 2008-2009 school year:

Flatbush Catholic Academy (Bk), St. Vincent Ferrer (Bk), Most Precious Blood (Bk), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Bk), Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Bk), Our Lady of Angels (Bk), St. Anthony of Padua (Qns), St. Benedict Joseph Labre (Qns), St. Catherine of Sienna (Qns), St. Aloysius (Qns) and Blessed Sacrament (Qns).

It is proposed that nine schools merge and three new schools be created. In the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn, it is proposed that Immaculate Heart of Mary (Bk) and Holy Name (Bk) merge and form one school with a single campus to be located at Prospect Park West. In Flushing, it is recommended that three schools, St. Michael, St Ann, Mary’s Nativity merge to form one school with one campus. The school will be located at the St. Mary Nativity site. The four Williamsburg schools are recommended to merge in 2010-2011. The number of sites is to be determined by the Board of Directors following the merger next year. These schools are Northside Academy, St. Stanislaus Kostka Ss. Joseph and Dominic Academy, St. Nicholas.

It is proposed that the five schools close and reopen at the same site as an Academy. If these schools do not reopen as Academies they will be recommended for closure at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. These schools will adopt a two-tier governance model and be required to meet. Schools in this category are Mary, Gate of Heaven (Qns) 2009-2010, Our Lady of Grace (Qns) 2009-2010, St. Anastasia (Qns) 2009-2010, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Qns) 2009-2010.

A special task force has been created to explore the creation of a new academy at St. John the Baptist, (Bk).


Anonymous said...

I am an OLA alumni too. That would be terribly sad if they close. I'll never forget "hot lunches" and Sister Dorothy and Brother Myles. I think I was in the first co-ed class in the middle years (i.e. before me, the kids were separated by gender from 6th grade on.)

Oh wow, and we went to Washington DC for three days in 8th grade. That was a blast. Great place.
Joan (Grommell) Pentek

Anonymous said...

Are they going to take these buildings to the fround too?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Instiute of Christ the King can buy one of these churches. They say the Old Mass, but at least these churches will be saved.

The Phantom said...

I don't think that anyone is saying that the churches will be closed. This isn't a "Bay Ridge Methodist" situation.

It is the elementary schools that are under discussion.

Anonymous said...

As an alumnus of OLPH, I certainly hope that that the parish will mobilize and prevent this from happening. Parents need more options than difficult to get into charter schools and (God forbid) public schools. On the other hand, when you have so many good people and their families move to the suburbs year after year, it was eventually going to come to this.

Anonymous said...

Who can forget Sister Rita DeLourdes (Rocky Rita) I will always cherrish my fondest memories of going to OLA being on the best swim team ever and just getting a great education. I will truly remember a great school.

The Phantom said...

Hopefully a way will be found to save OLA and OLPH and a number of the other schools

And a tip of the hat to

Sister Annina Marie

Mr. Ward

Mr Papasso

Tigerpride on Ice said...

I live in the midwest now but attended all 8 years at OLA. I can still recite poetry and sing Irish songs taught us by Sr. Joseph Bridget in the 1960s. Yes, nuns whose only visible body parts were faces and hands. Back in those days we had 50+ students in each homeroom, and 6 homerooms of each grade. A lay teacher was a real exception - one we'd cherish, too, like Miss Mantione and Mrs. Ascoli (and my brother's favorite, Mr Papasso). We'd literally play in 74th Street (and between parked cars) after lunch and before the bell sent us inside again. Imagine 2000 kids playing in the street - God bless those homeowners, especially those who had to move their parked cars while we were playing! And the nuns would take us to church in the middle of the day "for a visit" - I guess they prayed it would calm us down. Yes, lots of memories.

The Phantom said...

Mr. Papasso was loved by the kids.

He seemed pretty cool, and had a Volkswagen Beetle, which reinforced the cool image.

His punishments ( and did we need them ) were clever and not cruel

such as-

- writing an essay on how to grow a carrot in a block of cement

- writing an essay on how to describe the color red to a blind man

- writing the numbers from "0" to "100" on each and every line of a lined theme pad page

Anonymous said...

My daughter is in Pre-K in OLA and I was saddened to hear they may close! My mother and all of her sisters attended OLA and have fond memories.


Anonymous said...

It is a shame, If you care, call the diocese and let them know what you think. We have to try to hold onto as many schools as we can. The OLA kids have a few choices left, St. Pats, St. Anselms. The OLPH families don't even have St. Michaels anymore. they will have to hike it up to St. Agathas.

Anonymous said...

The Phantom said: "I don't think that anyone is saying that the churches will be closed. This isn't a "Bay Ridge Methodist" situation."

... Yet. The NY's Catholic Archdiocese has no problem closing churches when they don't fit some admin plan.

The churches needn't even reach the nadir that BR United Methodist did - i.e., where the whole Sunday attendance probably could fit into a couple of diner booths.

Anonymous said...

bayridge4life said: "call the diocese and let them know what you think. We have to try to hold onto as many schools as we can."

Like it or not, decisions like this are based on money and making efficient use of property.
The Archdiocese clearly prefers to have larger (and more reachable or expandable) schools - rather than lots of little "locals."
The locals that are left either will benefit (if demand really exists), or eventually will land in hot water anyway.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, the diocese closed my old elementary school on LI - and I could understand why!

On ONE hand, it had a big sturdy building, in great shape, great neighborhood, and though enrollment was wobbly -- compared to the "old days" -- it wasn't in dire straits.
On the OTHER hand, the Catholic demographic was declining, there were other Catholic schools nearby, and they were all pushing to fill seats and pay bills and salaries.
[Today's Cath.-school teachers are mostly laypeople, who need paychecks and benefits. Whereas the old teaching nuns worked for a pittance -- so that older retired nuns got poverty-level Soc Sec benefits, and "motherhouses" have had to pass the hat to support them.]

Anyway, it made sense to me when they closed my old school, plus others, and shifted kids to bigger non-neigborhood schools. It was pretty clear that the old schools were duplicative and wouldn't hang in forever, unless they reframed themselves as expensive-elitist joints or nonreligious schools.

The school-shifts also made kids less "parochial" -- pardon the expression! -- so that they got off the block, and didn't think that St. XYZ Parish was the hub of the Catholic, or any other, universe.

Anonymous said...

Please sign a petition to help keep OLA open!Help Save Our Lady of Angels School, Bay Ridge!

PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE TO SIGN THE PETITION http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/OLASCHOOL

We are putting together a petition to try to save our children’s school which is a wonderful mainstay of the neighborhood. Don’t allow an almost 90 year old Bay Ridge institution be swallowed by the modern world! The decision to close OLA is NOT final; we still can convince them that we love this school and it should stay open. Please sign this petition as gesture of hope and goodwill towards the OLA community.

Please forward this link to ANYONE you think is interested in this cause, family members, alumni, friends and anyone else that loves and cares about your children and you.


Anonymous said...


With all due respect, the petition points need serious beefing up if they're meant to convince the powers-that-be.
You have to emphasize tough stuff and prove that the place has *real* continuing money + enrollment strength, not that it's trying, is better off than some, or got one big donation.
Some of the backup reasons don't work, or could work *against* you, at least from the diocese's angle -
-- *Every* school can claim to be historic, warm, etcetera. And teacher unemployment truly would be terrible in this crummy economy, but would happen *because* of the crummy economy on top of parochial schools' systemic shakiness. To the diocese, the econ crash probably just indicated that school closings (past and present) were a smart idea.
-- Yes, OLA sponsors Scouts and gives space to civic groups. But many relig. places do this, it's not their big purpose, and these groups always find other space ... unless the old site was the sole refuge in a deadly-lethal neighborhood (which isn't the case here). And Scouting isn't supposed to be associated with any one faith, so it's not as if a troop-move would be bad for Catholics.
-- Inconvenience isn't a good argument.
Some parents will have to find other daycamps or make other dropoff arrangements ... but (sigh) parents often have to do that.
-- It's not relevant if OLA's closing overcrowds "other area schools" ... because Catholic schools don't exist to make public schools less crowded; and other parochial schools might welcome some crowding.
-- CCD (Catholic-ed classes for public schoolers) can be held anyplace that works. (Half of my own CCD happened in a church office, and the rest was in the basement of a parish I didn't attend.) If it's important to parents, the kids will go.
-- It's *not* good to say that the school closure might siphon people from OLA Parish to other parishes. It implies that OLA is somehow weak or can't "compete" without a school. Or or that petitioners lack a small-C "catholic" (broad) mindset, don't identify with one big Church, and just want to protect Our Stuff from other Catholics.
You don't want to imply *any* of this ... since the archdiocese obviously is rooting out weakness, and wants to emphasize bigger Catholicness over My-Neighborhood-ism.

If you want to save the school, you can't be vague or subjective. You have to see things as the higher-ups do, and show how OLA School would benefit the diocese and its gameplan.

Anonymous said...

The Blogger said, "Closing these schools would be a devastating blow to what's left of Catholic life in Brooklyn."
That's putting cart before the horse. Sounds like they want to close them BECAUSE times have changed, and "what's left of Catholic life in Brooklyn" won't sustain that many schools!

Anonymous said...

Closing these schools would not be devestating because the capacity to accomodate students in the neighboring schools far exceeds the number of Catholic Students left in Bay Ridge. Also, For five years, St. Patricks, St. Anselms and OLA have been negotiating to make one sound school. OLA refused to merge with the other parishes and now the pastor seems to have a change of heart and wants and academy. Many of us helped those parishes create a plan to merge, and he simply walked away. I would not support helping OLA. We simply cannot sustain all of these schools in our area.

Anonymous said...

If people wanted these two schools to remain open, they would send their children to those schools. All the petitions and calls to the Diocese of Brooklyn will not keep a school open. OLA had to rent part of the school because its empty. They rented the Convent and the Brothers house. If the school was still needed the school would be using every classroom and have to use the Convent and Brothers House to hold classes. The schools are closing because people dont send their kids to Catholic schools anymore. Charter Schools are great but now there is talk that the UFT is going to unionize those teachers. Say good bye to Charter Schools because they too will be like our NYC public schools where children cant read, write, or do math. Teachers arent even permitted to use the chalk boards. They dont teach spelling. They dont teach vocabulary. The students cant write in script but we dont send our children to Catholic schools. This is why they are closing. The choice was made by people who dont send children to these schools.

Anonymous said...

The good news is that both schools will remain open. See an update on olaybayridge.net