Seneca County schools to merge - Catholic Courier

Seneca County schools to merge

Bishop Matthew H. Clark has approved the consolidation of St. Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls and St. Mary’s School in Waterloo. The two facilities, which are the only Catholic schools in Seneca County, will consolidate after completion of the 2004-05 school year.

Talk of consolidation began in December 2003, when teachers, parents and the principals from both schools formed a joint committee to discuss their options in light of declining enrollment and related budgetary concerns in both schools, officials said.

Over the course of almost a year, the joint committee looked at the enrollment and budget statistics of each school, as well as the conditions of the two buildings. The committee also considered how a consolidated school might be able to offer additional programs and services and attract new students.

Both schools currently offer preschool through eighth-grade programs. St. Patrick’s currently has 117 students, while St. Mary’s has 128 students. St. Patrick’s was built in 1879, and St. Mary’s was officially established in 1904.

In late October, the committee issued a recommendation for consolidation to the pastoral leaders of St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s parishes, according to Father William Laird, pastor of St. Patrick’s. Father Laird and Mercy Sister Kathleen O’Connell, pastoral administrator of St. Mary’s, then shared the joint committee’s recommendation with their parish communities.

“We shared with the parish what the committee had recommended, so there was opportunity for the parish in general to address that,” Father Laird said, noting that he received no negative feedback from his parishioners.

After members of both parish and school communities were informed of the joint committee’s recommendation, Father Laird and Sister O’Connell passed the committee’s recommendation on to Bishop Clark. In a letter dated Nov. 1, they asked for his approval of the proposed consolidation. In mid-November, they received his response, indicating approval of the plan.

“I commend you, your school staff and parents, as well as your parishioners, for all of the efforts that have led to this decision. Both St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s have had a vibrant history of Catholic-school education,” Bishop Clark’s letter stated. “Like you, my chief concern is that the treasure of Catholic-school education be present in your area. Because of this, you have my full support for the consolidation of your two schools.”

Parishioners of both churches were informed of the upcoming school consolidation at Masses the weekend of Nov. 20-21, Father Laird said, adding that the joint committee has not yet decided on a site for the new school.

“The principle had to be approved before the details were worked out,” Father Laird said.

The joint committee planned to meet shortly after Thanksgiving to begin discussing some of those details, said Fred Smith, principal of St. Mary’s School.

Selecting a site for the consolidated school, developing a budget to support it and enrolling children for the 2005-06 school year will be the next steps, Smith said, noting that a new staff — from the principal to the custodian — also will be hired.

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