Tonawanda News

The City

March 16, 2014

St. Francis students write to religious, political officials

Tonawanda News — Students at St. Francis have joined in the fight to keep their school open and sent more than 100 letters to religious and political officials this week in support of the effort. 

“The children wanted to know what they could do to help. Sometimes they feel helpless being so young,” Principal Colleen Politowski said. “Their parents have their own roles in keeping the school open, and the kids want to help, but some of them have felt left out.”

The school organized an optional letter writing campaign to involve the students, who wrote to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, U.S. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, the National Catholic Register and the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.

The letters included a variety of reasons why the schools should stay open, including arguments that parents and parishioners have been voicing since January, when the Buffalo Diocese announced that St. Francis and nine other Catholic elementary schools would close.

The students wrote that their school is the only Catholic elementary institution in the Twin Cities, and serves children from the Town of Tonawanda and Wheatfield. St. Francis is the largest school slated for closure, and is the only one of the 10 to have increased its enrollment over the past 10 years. The school, which currently has 152 students enrolled, also has a $500,000 endowment, the students wrote. 

Parents are also concerned about transportation, as the city doesn’t provide busing outside of the district to other Catholic schools — many of which have higher tuition rates.  

“There are so many kids that benefit from being able to attend St. Francis, and they wouldn’t be able to attend or afford other schools,” Politowski said.

Attorney, parishioner and alumnus Mark Saltarelli has included many of those arguments in a Canon Law appeal, which asks for a reversal of Bishop Richard Malone’s decision. Saltarelli said Friday that the Roman Curia has received the appeal. 

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