Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School is closing
Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in West Islip

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Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School is closing

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
8/9/2018


SUFFOLK COUNTY—On Thursday, Aug. 2, the Diocese of Rockville Centre announced the closure of a parochial school servicing students throughout Islip Town. 

“We are deeply saddened at the closing of Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in West Islip,” Sean Dolan, director of communications for the diocese, wrote in a statement. “It is a great loss for the students and parents, as well as the teachers and administrators who have served the school so faithfully.” 

The closing comes due to an “unexpected and precipitous” drop in enrollment from 206 students at the end of the 2018 academic year to a current enrollment of 47 students, according to the diocese. 

“Catholic education is critical to the life of the church and to the communities we serve,” Dolan wrote. “We are committed to our larger, long-term vision to advance Catholic education and Catholic life on Long Island, with financially strong schools that maintain the highest standards of academic excellence and nurture the spiritual growth of our students and school communities.” 

Tuition for a single child to attend Our Lady of Lourdes’ final academic year ran $6,120, according to the school’s website. Two children per household cost $8,856, where three children cost $10,682 and four children cost $11,280. 

These tuition prices are very similar to other Catholic elementary schools in the area, including St. Patrick School in Bay Shore and St. Mary School in East Islip. 

   Due to the current summer months, this publication was unable to speak with school officials about whether St. Patrick and St. Mary schools have experienced similar declines in enrollment. Both schools had previously taken in a number of students after Prince of Peace Regional School in Sayville closed in 2012, due to declining enrollment. 

An Our Lady of Lourdes alumna from 2000 said that when she attended from second through eighth grade, tuition ran about $2,000 per year. She also said there were around 320 students attending the school at the time. 

The alumna, who attends Our Lady of Lourdes Church and didn’t wish to be named, gave her opinion that the church and the school used to be more “cohesive.” 

Nevertheless, efforts to enroll new students continued until only a few days before it was announced the school was closing. The unnamed alumna said, during mass announcements last Sunday (July 29), attendees were encouraged to enroll, or suggest enrollment for any children in their families that weren’t already students at the school. 

Our Lady of Lourdes School first opened its doors in 1965 when The Sisters of St. Joseph staffed the facility. 

Diocesan records go back to 1983. According to these records, the elementary school had a peak enrollment of 364 students in both 1999 and 2012. 

Dolan said Catholic school enrollment peaked nationally in the early 1960s when, according to the National Catholic Education Association, there were 5.2 million students in 13,000 schools. For the 2017-2018 academic year, there were 6,352 Catholic schools (elementary and high school) with a total population of 1,835,376. 

Dolan added that Catholic schools on Long Island have also seen a decline in enrollment, citing three key factors. The first is an overall decline in student population, which has affected both public and private schools. The second, he says, is the secularization of society. The third and final reason, Dolan says, is the “tax burden shouldered by young families across Long Island that has squeezed home budgets, putting Catholic school education out of reach for some.” 

The Diocese of Rockville Centre says it will be providing information about other Catholic schools in the area that students may wish to consider, along with whatever assistance parents might need during the “transition period.” 

The diocese has also established a hotline (516-280-4124) and dedicated an email address (education@drvc.org) for comments and questions during this time.