Tonawanda News

The City

January 24, 2014

St. Francis officials vow to keep school open

Tonawanda News — Several hundred people attended a meeting at St. Francis of Assisi School Thursday night, and despite the emotion and tears, vowed to fight the Buffalo Diocese’s decision and keep the school open.

“In the bishop’s words, we do have a moral obligation to assist those who are in need,” Mark Saltarelli, an alumnus of the school and member of its endowment board who is spearheading the effort, said. “And with that obligation, the doors of St. Francis School will not be closed.”

Last week, the Buffalo Diocese announced that St. Francis would be one of 10 elementary schools to close at the start of the 2014-2015 academic year. Bishop Richard Malone said the decision was based on years of demographic research, including the number of infant baptisms in each area, public school enrollments, the distance to the next closest Catholic school and dozens of other factors.

But Saltarelli and other school supporters are questioning the reasoning behind the decision to close St. Francis, the only school set for closure that has increased its enrollment since 2003 — and the only school that serves the Twin Cities.

“I’m trying to get the bishop to understand that there is more to this school than the City of Tonawanda. We have kids from Niagara-Wheatfield, from the Town of Tonawanda. We are truly a regional school,” he said.

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. The school is also financially stable, and has a $500,000 endowment.

“I know there is no reason why this school has to close,” Saltarelli said. “It’s not about money or brick and mortar, it’s about promoting Catholic education and keeping schools open.”

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