St. John Bosco School in Seneca Falls will not reopen for the 2007-08 school year, according to a letter from Bishop Matthew H. Clark to parish officials at St. Patrick Parish in Seneca Falls and St. Mary Parish in Waterloo. The Diocese of Rochester also distributed the letter to all affected parents.
The bishop’s letter explained that the school had been stable with an enrollment of 125 students at the end of the 2006-07 school year, but that a persistent rumor about the school’s status apparently caused many parents to withdraw their children and enroll them elsewhere.
"I am sorry to learn that a steep decline in enrollment this summer was caused by what seems to have been an irrational and infectious fear that the school might close before September," Bishop Clark’s letter states. "Though again and again we assured principal and students it would not close, one by one students were withdrawn until there are barely enough students now to fill a single classroom."
"This is a very odd situation where this rumor became a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was just so sudden and precipitous and unnecessary," said diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro.
St. John Bosco School was formed at the end of the 2004-05 school year by the merger of St. Mary School in Waterloo and St. Patrick School in Seneca Falls. The merged school opened in the former St. Patrick school building. The closing of St. John Bosco School leaves Seneca County without a Catholic school, Mandelaro said.
Bishop Clark is well aware of this, and he hopes the school eventually may be reopened, Mandelaro said.
"The survival of Catholic education in Seneca County is of such concern to me that I would like to propose that we evaluate the possibility of re-growing St. John Bosco School," Bishop Clark’s letter stated.
In the letter, Bishop Clark suggested that the diocesan Catholic Schools Office work with the St. Patrick and St. Mary pastoral councils to determine whether there is a desire for re-establishing Catholic education in the county.
Although it is too soon to tell how such a desire would be determined, Mandelaro said surveys and evaluations would most likely be used. Officials also may look at the number of former St. John Bosco students who enroll at St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva, using that figure as a gauge of how much value residents place on Catholic education, Mandelaro said.
"If there is interest and support, then I recommend that a strategic plan be developed with the preschool as the foundation for slowly rebuilding a Catholic school grade by grade," Bishop Clark wrote in his letter.