Tonawanda News — This column is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi School and all, past and present, who have contributed to its success.
The announcement from the Diocese of Buffalo that St. Francis School is closing hit me like a solid blow to the heart.
Although the diocesan school officials were told more than once that the cities of Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Lockport, Niagara Falls and Buffalo (all cities) do not and will not bus children out of the district, St. Francis was closed anyway.
Parents are now left with a choice of driving their children to a Town of Tonawanda Catholic school, picking them up and transporting them to after-school events or going to a public school in the district. What would you choose? If I were a working parent unable to have my children bused to another district, the choice of a public school would be a no-brainer.
A few years ago, the then-superintendent of diocesan schools decided to close North Tonawanda Catholic (Ascension School). Just prior to that, the diocese first combined, then closed St. Joseph’s School and the Our Lady of Czestochowa School in North Tonawanda and then Ascension. That left a city of 31,269 residents without access to a Catholic school as there was no way to have them bused to another school out of the city.
Now add another 16,136 residents in the City of Tonawanda without a Catholic school and no way to have them bused out.
Stupid, stupid, stupid to leave nearly 50,000 residents without a choice.
Of course money is the bottom line, but St. Francis not only is one of two schools whose enrollment has grown in the past few years and now stands at 186, but the school parents and parishioners support. In fact one of the alumni recently donated $25,000 to the school as thanks for his great education. And one wonders what will become of the endowment fund, proceeds of which help keep the school’s tuition the lowest in the diocese.