Archdiocese announces closure of 10 Catholic schools

NEWARK, NJ — The Archdiocese of Newark announced May 8 the consolidation of its school community and the closure of nine archdiocesan-operated elementary schools at the end of this school year, the result of archdiocesan strategic planning efforts to strengthen the overall school program and ensure a sustainable future for Catholic education in the Archdiocese. Cristo Rey Newark High School, a member of the Cristo Rey Network, also will close due to lack of operational viability, as per a resolution adopted by the school’s board.

The nine elementary schools to close are: Academy of St. Therese of Lisieux in Cresskill, St. Anne School in Fair Lawn, Trinity Academy in Caldwell, Good Shepherd Academy in Irvington, Our Lady Help of Christians School in East Orange, St. James the Apostle School in Springfield, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Providence, Holy Spirit School in Union and St. Genevieve School in Elizabeth.

All 10 schools will remain active through the end of the school year, with lessons and assignments continuing to be administered via distance learning platforms in compliance with the statewide mandate.

The announcement follows similar decisions by other Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the region. Nationwide, changing demographics and increased competition from public and secular private schools have contributed to ongoing declines in Catholic school enrollment, decreasing the long-term viability of many school communities. 

Under present circumstances, archdiocesan financial support to its Catholic elementary schools would total approximately $80 million in the next five years. Unsustainable levels of subsidy, a result of significant enrollment decreases, have affected the continued operational standing of a number of school communities. Continued financial support at this level would diminish the Archdiocese’s ability to strategically reinvest in strengthening Catholic education overall. The decision to pursue closure for these school communities was made after considerable review and planning by the Archdiocese of Newark’s Fiscal Year 2020 Schools Strategy Committee, comprising religious and lay professionals, including education experts with in-depth knowledge of Catholic education and the local situation.

Factors considered by the Schools Strategy Committee in assessing the situation at these schools included declining enrollment numbers and increasing and unsustainable dependence on archdiocesan funding over time. Consideration also was given to geographic locations and proximity to nearby matched archdiocesan schools that will accommodate new students.

“We recognize that this is an incredibly sad time for our school communities, especially during this pandemic crisis,” said Barbara Dolan, acting superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Newark. “Every effort will be made to find a Catholic school for those families interested in continuing to provide a Catholic education for their children in the next academic year.”

The process to identify affected schools and pursue this plan began before the COVID-19 crisis, and the decision is not directly linked to the pandemic. Archdiocesan officials noted, however, that the crisis has further weakened the economic position of the schools and other ministries.

Due to continued pandemic-related restrictions on in-person gatherings and the statewide closure of school buildings, the Archdiocese was unable to pursue its original plan of in-person notification to faculty and staff. School communities and staff received notifications this week via videoconferencing and emailed letters.

A comprehensive support effort, including the distribution of a Parent and Student Support Guide and other resources for the school community, will begin in May and will continue in the coming months.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, expressed the Archdiocese’s sadness at the necessity of this decision. 

“I want to acknowledge the pain experienced by the students and their families, teachers, staff, administrators, pastors and parishioners, and all who are affected by these difficult decisions,” Tobin said. “We are committed to placing these students into nearby archdiocesan schools, all of which are fully prepared to welcome them, accommodate them and provide them with a continuing, outstanding Catholic education.”