Tonawanda News

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January 17, 2014


Staff, parents angered by St. Francis of Assisi School closure


Tonawanda News — “The City of Tonawanda will not bus out of district; the City of North Tonawanda will not bus out of district,” Politowski said. “It’s just not feasible. For many of the families, it’s not feasible. It comes down to money for them, and they don’t have that money.”

Gorski said that when NT Catholic closed, diocese officials said that they would “look into” busing for students.

“Guess what, they couldn’t and wanted to charge each family $1,000 if we wanted a bus,” she said.

As far as finances go, St. Francis officials said the school is stable. It has something unique, an endowment of about $500,000 that was started about 10 years ago, and the interest is used to help the school and mitigate tuition for its students. Politowski said she doesn’t know what will happen to the fund, but some parents have concerns that its benefits will be lost with St. Francis.

Gorbach said it would be difficult or impossible to maintain the benefits as the students disperse.

“How do they sort that out? How is it possible to send it with the kids?” he asked. “One-hundred dollars here, $100 there? It’s a lot of money that parents have worked and saved for, too.”

Swartz said North Tonawanda Catholic parents were told that St. Francis was safe when their children transferred there because of the endowment.

“What happened to our failsafe? What about that now? Nobody has said,” he said.

Process questioned

In addition, some have questions about the process of selecting the closing schools, especially when they’d believed that St. Francis hit all its benchmarks, including having room for another 200 or so children at its facilities.

Swartz said surveys given to parents about six weeks ago asked “leading” questions, ones he described as similar to “Would you like a school with a brand-new science lab or a school that teaches science in an ordinary classroom?” and “Would you like a brand-new gym or a gym that also doubles as a cafeteria?” Questions like that lead him to believe the diocese was trying to give the appearance parents preferred to send children to shiny, new, big schools — rather than the quaint neighborhood schools largely targeted for closure, he said.

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