Tonawanda News

February 5, 2014

Business as usual at St. Francis

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Bishop Richard Malone has rejected a canon law petition from St. Francis that asked him to reconsider the closure of the school — the only elementary Catholic institution serving the Twin Cities. 

“We received a general letter that was sent to all that schools that sent in petitions,” Mark Saltarelli, an attorney and St. Francis parishioner sent the petition to the bishop, said. “I’ll be sending an appeal by the end of the week to the Roman Curia in Italy.”

Despite the bishop’s rejection, Saltarelli said he remains committed to keeping the school open. 

“Our intention is not changing. The school is staying open and we are proceeding,” he said. “As I indicated, we are operating business as usual.”

Normal proceedings at the school include an open house, which was scheduled before the diocese’s announcement to close 10 schools as part if its revitalization plan. 

The open house for the school and its pre-K program is set for Sunday from noon to 2 p.m., Interim Principal Louise Lopardi said. Those interested in attending the event should RSVP by Thursday by calling 692-7886. 

“The teachers will all be in their classrooms, doing presentations on their curriculum and what happens here at St. Francis on a daily basis,” she said. “We’ll be answering questions that any prospective students and their parents have.”

Tours of the school will be offered, and parents can also register their children for next year’s academic year at the event. Saltarelli has urged families to register and stick together in order to keep the school open, but the fee will be refundable if the plans do not work out.

“Registration is going very well. We’re doing better than we were (this time last year),” Lopardi said.

The councils of North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda have passed resolutions supporting the effort, and a number of politicians — including Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick and state Assemblyman Robin Schimminger — have sent letters to the diocese asking for the bishop’s reconsideration. 

A Facebook page for the cause, “Save Saint Francis of Assisi School,” has more than 2,200 likes and dozens of comments. 

Supporters are taking issue with the reasoning behind the decision to close St. Francis, citing its $500,000 endowment and service to both Niagara County and Erie County students. Although other Catholic schools will remain open in the Town of Tonawanda, both the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda do not bus out of the district, meaning that city parents will have to find other means of transportation.

Tuition at many of the other Catholic elementary schools, including St. John’s and St. Christopher’s in the town, is also higher than the cost at St. Francis. It is only school set for closure that has increased its enrollment since 2003.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Open house at St. Francis • WHERE: 70 Adam St., Tonawanda • WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m. Sunday • RVSP: By Thursday to 692-7886