Local Catholic Schools Face Tough Times

Twenty-six Catholic schools in New York State, including two in Ulster County, are at risk of closure in June following the fall analysis of the local regional boards and reconfiguration committees in every county in the archdiocese, according to the Archdiocese of New York website.

St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties and St. Joseph’s School in Kingston are the two in Ulster County that were put at risk of closure.

However, Paul De Lisio, chairman of the finance committee at St. Joseph’s, said the school will remain open.

“St. Joseph’s is not going to close,” he said. “We are surviving, thriving and enrollment is up…our facilities are in wonderful shape.”

In an effort to save money, the archdiocese local regional boards and reconfiguration committee analyzes budgets and visits schools to determine their condition and how much the institution would cost the diocese to survive, De Lisio said.

St. Mary of the Snow, a struggling facility, costs the diocese $600,000 a year to keep open and the committee decided that the school will close in June, according to De Lisio.

De Lisio said that when the archdiocese contacted St. Joseph’s two-and-a-half years ago saying it was an “at risk” school, tuition was raised drastically to bring in more funding, and student scholarships increased to more than $50,000. In addition, alumni donations raised more than $335,000 for the school. Parents, alumni and parishioners have also stepped up to financially sponsor classrooms, the gymnasium and theater, he said.

“We haven’t had to use much money from the archdiocese for two plus years,” De Lisio said. “What’s the harm in keeping a thriving school that won’t cost the archdiocese a dime?”

St. Joseph’s serves children from pre-K to eighth grade. The school has an art, music and theater program, technology labs, an honors program and is home to an award-winning chess team. Currently, 205 students are enrolled from the Kingston area, New Paltz and Northern Dutchess County, according to school Principal Jeanne Dolamore.

“We have shadow days and registration ongoing for new students every day,” Dolamore said.

With the closing of three public schools in Kingston next September, De Lisio said he believes there will a greater need to keep St. Joseph’s open because some of those displaced students might enroll.

“People love a faith-based education,” he said. “They love the environment; it’s what the general public is looking for.”

As of now, De Lisio said he is uncertain about the changes that will be made to the title and status of St. Joseph’s School. The school will no longer be part of the regionalization program, he said, but may continue to remain a parish school that the church subsidizes.

If the school becomes an independent Catholic school, the archdiocese no longer has any financial responsibility for the facility, and the cardinal must give permission to continue to use “Catholic” within the school’s name, according to De Lisio.

Regardless of status, De Lisio said that the school will remain a faith-based one.

“We are going to keep moving, keep enrolling and going to be open. We just don’t know what our title will be,” he said. “We are working on the next 100 years.”