Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — St. Francis, the only remaining Catholic elementary school in the Twin Cities, will be one of 10 schools to close as part of a downsizing plan, the Buffalo Diocese announced Wednesday.
"When you think of the students, families, faculty, staff, parishioners, alumni and supporters of these schools, you realize how gut-wrenching this day is for them," Bishop Richard Malone said at the press conference held at the Catholic Center in Buffalo. "I ask that you keep them in your prayers and also ask that all neighboring Catholic schools be welcoming and compassionate."
Wednesday's announcement came after three years of extensive research and consultation. Malone, along with Superintendent of Catholic Schools Carol Cimino and Secretary of Education Carol Kostyniak, looked at declining enrollment numbers, the number of infant baptisms in each area, public school enrollments, the distance to the next closest Catholic school and dozens of other factors before making the final decision.
All of the 10 schools are in the suburbs of Erie County, and no schools in the City of Buffalo or Niagara County will close under the plan. Malone said the diocese is involved in preliminary talks to use BISON Fund scholarships to allow students to transfer out of low performing Buffalo elementary schools into Catholic institutions.
The announcement will affect approximately 1,154 students and 195 administrators, teachers and staff members will lose their jobs, though the diocese has pledged to offer employees who do not retire a chance to land a job elsewhere in the Catholic education system.
"Some will retire, and we will give every one of (the remaining employees) an opportunity for the new jobs at the schools that are remaining open," Kostyniak said. "We are hoping that the enrollment will go up and they will need to hire more teachers."
St. Francis of Assisi, located at 70 Adam St., currently has 152 students and 19 staff members.