The Diocese of Rockville Center will be closing Bishop McGann-Mercy High School at the end of this school year.
High school students not yet graduating can transfer to St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, according to an announcement from the diocese. The diocese will provide transportation, guidance counseling and tuition grants to students who continue at a diocesan school, according to a statement released Monday.
“This is heartbreaking for our students,” Bishop John Barres said in a video posted March 9 on YouTube and shared on the high school’s Facebook page Monday afternoon. “This decision is heartbreaking for their dear families, their dear parents. This decision is heartbreaking for our dedicated faculty, our dedicated staff, our principal and all who’ve been touched by the great experience of Catholic education at McGann-Mercy.”
The diocese is also consolidating its East End elementary schools — Our Lady of Mercy in Cutchogue and St. Isidore in Riverhead. All students will attend school at the St. Isidore building, and the school will be renamed to John Paul II Regional School, he said.
The two elementary schools will close at the end of the school year in June, and the new John Paul II Regional School will open in September 2018. It will offer classes for students in nursery school through 8th grade.
Bishop Barres said the decisions were made “because of a number of factors, such as decreasing enrollment and some demographic changes.”
The dioceses said there has been a 37 percent decline in combined enrollment of all three schools since 2011, and noted they don’t see any signs of enrollment increasing in the near future.
That decrease can be seen in each grade, with 91 students currently enrolled in 12th grade, and only 55 enrolled in the eighth grade.
St. Isidore School had 104 students enrolled in kindergarten through 8th grade, the dioceses said. Our Lady of Mercy Regional has an enrollment of 53 students in kindergarten through 6th grade, with only three students in the first grade.
The dioceses also cited rising costs as one of the main factors leading to its decision, saying it spent $16.3 million between 2007 and the 2016-17 school year at McGann-Mercy High School, and are expected to spend another $2.3 million during the current school year.
At St. Isidore, another $475,000 is needed for the current school year. A $600,000 subsidy is needed for Our Lady of Mercy Regional for the 2017-18 school year.
The diocese has developed staffing and logistical plans and will share details at upcoming informational meetings and open houses. It also established a hotline, (516) 280-4124, where parents, students, faculty and staff can call for more information. They can also visit www.eastendcatholicschools.org.
“Our goal is that these measures will strengthen Catholic schools on Long Island,” Bishop Barres said. “The sad truth is that it has become increasingly unfeasible to maintain these schools financially. As is often the case in these situations, the only real course of action is to combine our resources in new and creative ways so that we can provide a more robust and compelling educational experience across the entire system, in keeping with our mission to serve the people of Long Island.”
The dioceses said the new elementary school will include an enhanced Early Childhood Education Center, a strengthened elementary education program and a middle school academy program featuring a Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math (STREAM) curriculum.
“Strengthening enrollment at St. John Paul II Regional School in Riverhead and at our remaining diocesan high schools will create a more vibrant and effective Catholic educational environment,” said Dr. Kathleen Walsh, superintendent of schools, Diocese of Rockville Centre, said in a statement. “We are deeply committed to providing the best Catholic educational experience possible across all 55 elementary and secondary schools in the diocese.”
The partnership with Mercy and the Diocese of Rockville Centre began in 2002 and the school was officially renamed Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in 2003. The school’s origin dates back more than 60 years when it was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and the original school was housed in a temporary building on Roanoke Avenue, according to a history page on the school’s website.