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Some Small Buffalo Catholic Schools Spared from Closure

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Low enrollment was a major factor in the decision by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese to close fourteen schools. But there were some schools at the bottom of enrollment that were spared.

The third floor gym at Our Lady of Black Rock was jumping with activity last Friday as light flooded through the giant arched windows.

And there will be happy years ahead here for these energetic second-graders - all ten of them.

Yes, it's a pretty small class. But, not surprising with a total school enrollment of only about 120. Still, the school was spared from the recently announced round of closings by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.

Principal Todd Miklas said they are low in numbers, but strong in other areas. He said, with other schools closing, they also have the potential to grow.

But Miklas said the work isn't over yet. They are trying to build recruitment and retention through the Diocese Development Program that provides expertise and resources.

Those tools were not an advantage enjoyed by another school that lost the contest to stay alive.

The Diocese decided this will be the final year of school for Saint Rose of Lima, along with thirteen other schools.

Like Our Lady of Black Rock, the 1926 North Buffalo grade school struggles with low enrollment. Craig Speers is Vice President of the Saint Rose Parish Council.

He said the school was denied help from the Diocese. Speers said they will fight the decison and ask the Bishop to reject the recommendations.

According to Diocese officials, the first round of the invention program was made available to 12 schools.

Denise McKenzie is the Secretary of Education for the Diocese. She said some of the schools chosen were at-risk schools, such as Our Lady of Black Rock. But she said not every needy school was included.

No more school closings are expected this year. However, McKenzie said they can not rule out others in the future - and that includes those who do not improve their numbers, even with a boost from the Diocese.

Some schools have resigned themselves to what they say was inevitable. Mary Stechewicz is principal at Infant of Prague grade school in Cheektowaga.

It is one of five to close in the aging town. Stechewicz said the process was positive and inclusive. And she said they will move forward the same way, making this the best possible year for the children while emphasizing the importance of a Catholic education.

That will actually be good news for some schools that remain open. McKenzie said there are still plenty of schools with room to grow, such as Our Lady Black Rock.

The school hopes to attract some of the displaced students. Principal Todd Miklas said, although they do not want to ccapitalize on the pain of schools that are closing, the priority is making sure children get a Catholic education - no matter where that is.

Diocese officials say about eighty percent of displaced students are expected to transfer to other Catholic schools. But they say that does not guarantee other schools still might not have to close in the future.

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