Elmira system to consolidate from three schools into two - Catholic Courier

Elmira system to consolidate from three schools into two

Due to declining enrollment and a growing budget deficit, Elmira’s Holy Family Catholic Schools will consolidate from a three-school system into two schools beginning in 2009-10.

The consolidation was unanimously agreed upon by a local 12-member task force and approved by diocesan officials, according to a Jan. 14 letter sent home to parents of Holy Family students.

“We are confident that this consolidation will lead to a stronger, more stable system in the future,” stated the letter, which was signed by the principals of all three existing schools: Bernadette McClelland, Holy Family Primary; Brenda Lisi, Holy Family Intermediate; and Elizabeth Berliner, Holy Family Junior High.

According to statistics provided by the Diocese of Rochester, the Holy Family school system currently enrolls 283 students not counting prekindergarten: 108 at Holy Family Primary, which offers pre-K through third grade; 80 at Holy Family Intermediate, which accommodates fourth through sixth grades; and 95 at Holy Family Junior High, which serves seventh and eighth grades. These figures represent an overall student decline of 42 percent from just five years ago, and a drop of 52 percent from 1998-99.

Under the new arrangement, Holy Family Primary will become Holy Family Elementary, housing grades pre-K through 5. Holy Family Junior High will be renamed Holy Family Middle School and offer grades 6-8. The intermediate school building will no longer be used.

An informational meeting regarding the changes is scheduled at the Holy Family Junior High auditorium Wednesday, Jan. 21, beginning at 7 p.m. Registration for the next school year begins Jan. 26.

According to the Jan. 14 letter, the consolidation will reduce operational costs by approximately $186,000 in the first year. This savings will enable tuition rates to remain constant for 2009-10; allow instructional programs to be enhanced and building security to be upgraded at both sites; and address such increasing operational expenses as insurance premiums and utilities.

“In fact, our five-year financial projections show that our system should have a necessary surplus” by the end of 2013-14, according to the letter.

The letter also noted that Holy Family Intermediate was selected for closure because it is the most expensive of the three buildings to operate and has the fewest number of classrooms.

This is not the first reconfiguration of Elmira’s Catholic elementary schools. Two waves of consolidation, in the early 1970s and mid-1980s, saw the city go from seven parish-based schools to a three-school system under which parishes share expenses. Holy Family Primary is located at the former St. Mary School; Holy Family Intermediate at the former Our Lady of Lourdes School; and Holy Family Junior High at the former St. Casimir School.

The task force also examined the viability of Chemung County’s other Catholic school, St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads (pre-K through 6), and deemed that no major changes will be made in its operation in 2009-10.

Representatives on the task force include “a cross section of the Catholic community that includes people with pastoral, educational, and financial expertise. The majority of the members are parents of past, present, and future Holy Family students,” the letter stated.

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