FAIRPORT — Many parents, teachers and students describe their Catholic-school communities as families, and the community at St. John of Rochester School is no different.
"Everyone knew who everyone was, and it was more like a family and a bunch of friends," said Patty LoCicero, mother of three St. John students. "When you walk into the school it really is like walking into a second home."
This school community apparently is so tightly knit that even the school’s closing can’t keep many of its members apart.
St. John of Rochester is one of 13 diocesan-operated schools in Monroe County that will close at the end of June, but Principal Eileen O’Neill noted that 120 of the school’s 174 current students will move together to St. Joseph School in Penfield for the 2008-09 school year.
This was not a coincidence, said Tracy Conti, who has a son and daughter in St. John’s third and sixth grades, respectively. Parents worked together and tried to keep entire grades intact and move them over to the Penfield school.
"We e-mailed, talked and tried to keep everyone together," she said.
Although the vast majority of St. John students will attend St. Joseph, a handful also will be going to St. Louis School in Pittsford, Seton Catholic School in Brighton and area public schools.
Many parents said they were surprised to learn that St. John was on the list of schools to be closed. The school, which was founded in 1963, a year after the parish was formed, had strong support from parents and alumni. In fact, alumni often return to the school to help with such special events as Mission Day, which took place this year on June 18, said parent and Mission Day coordinator Mary Beth LaDuca.
St. John alumnus John Kidd is one of those volunteers. He graduated from the school’s sixth grade in 2004 but has already been back to help several times. On June 18 he staffed a game booth and reminisced about his own years enjoying Mission Day as a student. He currently attends Rochester’s McQuaid Jesuit High School, but is thankful for the foundation he received in elementary school.
"I was well-prepared," John said. "All the teachers were nice and the kids were fun and the education was good."
John said he’s disappointed that his brother, who will be in sixth grade at St. Joseph next year, won’t get a chance to graduate from St. John.
Parent Ann Olin said her daughter, who will be in fifth grade at St. Louis next year, was very upset when she heard the school would close. Her daughter first started coming to St. John as a 3-year-old preschooler.
"She was awful sad. This is the only school she’s ever known," Olin said.
The students aren’t the only ones saddened by the closing. Children are resilient and they’ll move on and be fine, Conti said, but their parents have formed their own bonds of friendship with each other and may find it hard to adjust. The school is home to a lot of fond memories for students and parents alike, LoCicero added.
Although they’re sad, parents are grateful for the 44 years the school served the children and families in the Fairport area, providing an education strong in terms of academics, faith and values.
"Everyone there, the faculty, the staff, even the other parents, they’ve all touched our children’s lives in some way, and we’ve been really blessed by having that happen," she said.