Parents Appeal Decision To Close St. Agnes School

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CLARK – A group of concerned parents is appealing the local parish’s decision to close St. Agnes School in Clark at the end of this school year.

Declining enrollment and financial difficulties are cited as the reasons for closing the kindergarten through eighth grade school. Parents learned of the news at a hastily called meeting last week and were upset that the parish’s decision was made without giving them the opportunity for input.

Pat Delaney, who is organizing the appeal, sent a letter to the Most Rev. John J. Myers, archbishop of Newark, on Monday. He said that the archdiocese had granted the parents a meeting this week to present their case. Delaney said he was “cautiously optimistic” that St. Agnes School could be saved.

Current students, parents, faculty, and alumni participated in a candlelight vigil outside the St. Agnes Church Saturday evening and a demonstration on Sunday morning corresponding with Mass services. According to St. Agnes Home School Association President Kim Broadwell, the events were well-attended despite the weekend’s sub-freezing temperatures.

Broadwell said that a group of concerned parents has formed a trust to raise money to help keep the school open. They are also formulating commitments from parents to keep their children in the school next year.

Enrollment at St. Agnes School had remained steady at approximately 200 students for much of the decade. However, it fell to about 177 students in 2008 and just 133 in the current school year, according to church officials.

According to budget figures posted on the St. Agnes Parish website, the school’s fiscal year 2009 subsidy was $241,494 – up 19 percent from the year before. St. Agnes Parish concluded fiscal year 2009 with a $165,842 budget deficit.

Ten Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Newark shut down or merged last year, but St. Agnes School’s closure is the first announced in 2010.

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