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Lower enrollment forcing reorganization of Catholic schools

After a lengthy review process, the Diocese of Buffalo is going to announce big changes this week for its Catholic Elementary Schools in what is being called a "School Revitalization Plan.""That's what it really is about. It's to try to revitalize and position our Catholic schools in a way that will be stronger going forward than we are now. That will mean fewer buildings," says Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone.

Malone says it will also mean fuller schools and lower costs.  

"One of the great things is, when we start to save some funds, it won't be going into keeping a half-full, for example, school open. We can use that money to enhance the academic programs and the faith development programs in the other schools," he says.

The need for closings or mergers is being driven by fewer students. According to the state Education Department, in Erie County over the past decade, enrollment in Catholic elementary schools fell by 41 percent. Malone says the changes that are coming will be difficult.  

"Because when some of those buildings close, there's a loss. There's a giving up of something. But the purpose of it is to make sure that we'll be able to be more confident that regionally we'll be having strong Catholic schools," Malone says.

The Diocese is scheduled to release its plan Wednesday afternoon at Notre Dame Academy in South Buffalo.