posted on November 30, 2011 13:40
On paper, it's simple: LeRoy's Holy Family Catholic elementary needs 20 more students and $120,000 in fundraising to remain independently open in 2012.
Administrative pastor Father Mike Rock says the fundraising isn't a big concern: "15% of the cost of running the school would come from our parental and local fundraising, which we do very well," he says.
The real problem, says Father Rock, is one he has stated before: there's just not that many kids around Western New York these days.
"We're like a little snapshot of the entire area of the Diocese: all of Genesee County and Western New York is shrinking," says Father Rock. "We have less children, birth rates are down...young people are moving. It's a little difficult for any school, public or private, to stay open with the system they once had."
It's the same situation that led the education branch of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to begin a transformative process, called "Faith in Tomorrow." Under that initiative, a number of Catholic-run schools in the Diocese are being consolidated and closed, and resources and students are being shifted – all in an effort to maintain sustainability.
Holy Family School itself was set to consolidate with St. Joseph's in Batavia just two weeks ago. But, as Father Rock and other administrators began meeting with parents and community members, they quickly realized there was some opposition to the plan.
"The bishop asked our school, based on feedback, to give parents and local people the chance to help boost our benchmarks...(keeping) the school physically open in LeRoy," says Father Rock. He and the school's administrators met with the community last night, and formed several committees dedicated to keeping Holy Family open.
"At present, we have 100 students," Father Rock says , "and the bishop would like to see us have 120 students by next year." The school will attempt to register or re-register that many between March and June of 2012. There's no worry of drawing students away from St. Joe's, because Holy Family's students are generally all east of Batavia.
As far as finances: "We're asking our families and community to raise $40,000 by March 1st, another $40,000 by April 15th, and another $40,000 by June 1st," for a grand total of $120,000, or 15% of the school's operating budget, he said.
"I would hope that it will be sustainable," Father Rock says, "but at the same time, being realistic...we are continuing the (consolidation) dialogue with St. Joe's." The two schools will continue designing consolidation models that would be best for both.
"There's only so many children out there in the world," he continued. "If the day does happen...when we are not able to be open, I would like to see a situation where we have a strong, united regional school...anchoring us for a strong future."