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Top stories of 2018: Our Lady of Mercy elementary closes

The closure of Bishop McGann-Mercy High School and Our Lady of Mercy elementary school shook the Catholic school community on the North Fork. 

For the first time in more than 60 years, the Cutchogue elementary school did not reopen in September.

It was announced in March that the Catholic elementary schools on the East End — Our Lady of Mercy in Cutchogue and St. Isidore in Riverhead — would be consolidated. All students would attend school at the St. Isidore building and the school would be renamed John Paul II Regional School.

The new elementary school now occupies the St. Isidore building on Marcy Avenue in Riverhead. It offers classes for students in nursery school through eighth grade. 

Principal Alexandra Conlan said enrollment at the elementary level had dwindled throughout the years, averaging about 15 students per grade.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre also announced the high school’s demise in March in a YouTube video, just three months before it was set to close.

“This is heartbreaking for our students,” Bishop John Barres said in the video announcement. “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.”

Parents and alumni were determined to save the school somehow, possibly by establishing it as an independent Catholic school. They mobilized via the Mercy High School Friends Facebook page, sharing memories of the school and encouraging those interested to get involved.

High school students who were not yet graduating would have had to transfer to St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip if they still wanted to pursue a Catholic education. Others were split up into their public schools.

Bishop Barres originally said the decisions were made “because of a number of factors, such as decreasing enrollment and some demographic changes.”