Tonawanda News


January 17, 2014


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


Tonawanda News — Fritz Gorbach of North Tonawanda, who has children in kindergarten and second grade at St. Francis, said he was shocked at the decision.

“I can’t understand why they’d take (away) the only Catholic school in the Twin Cities,” he said. “We were told there was a series of benchmarks that were going to be examined. Our enrollment has gone up while other schools’ have gone down. There are so many factors that left us completely blindsided. It’s a terrible thing.

“I can’t imagine what spurred this decision other than they feel like they can make more money somewhere else. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

Some of the students at St. Francis will be moving on to their third school in about four years after this school year. A number of students from North Tonawanda Catholic School moved to St. Francis after its 2010 closure — itself the last Catholic school in North Tonawanda after the closure of the St. Joseph’s campus in 2006 and the Our Lady of Czestochowa campus in 2008.

L. Don Swartz, who has children in third and sixth grades at St. Francis, said about 40 to 45 students moved to the school after North Tonawanda Catholic closed. 

“As parents, we feel a certain sense of guilt there. I apologized to my boys, ‘I’m sorry we sent you to another school that closed.’ They’re home today, they’re devastated,” he said. “All the parents feel exactly the same way. We’re grieving, the kids are crying.

“We thought we would be OK. We thought, ‘There’s no way they’ll put these 40 kids through this again,’ just on a human level. They don’t know what it feels like. I’m convinced they don’t care.”

Transportation, endowment questions linger

The Twin Cities identity and location of the school also brings into question the issue of transportation. St. Francis is located in the City of Tonawanda, and under state law, city school districts are not required to provide transportation to students enrolled in nonpublic schools outside city lines. That means unless parents can provide their own transportation, children from the City of Tonawanda are out of options. 

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