Manhattan School Merger Is Called Off

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The merger of Holy Cross and Sacred Heart of Jesus schools in the midtown west section of Manhattan has been called off, and both will remain open and separate for the 2011-2012 school year, the archdiocese has announced.

The plan was shelved to give parents and staff of Holy Cross School the same opportunity as other “at-risk” schools to propose a plan to increase the funding and enrollment needed to ensure the school’s future.

“It’s buying Holy Cross an extra year,” said Fran Davies, spokesman for the archdiocesan Schools Superintendent’s Office.

Holy Cross, at 332 W. 43rd St., with 212 students, was not listed as a school at risk by the archdiocesan Reconfiguration Committee, which recommended the closing of 26 parish elementary schools at the end of the current academic year due to high costs and declining enrollments.

The at-risk schools, including the 206-student Sacred of Heart of Jesus School at 456 W. 52nd St., were given several months notice to propose plans to increase revenue and enrollment.

The announcement, then, that the schools would merge came as a surprise to the Holy Cross School community. The merger would have relocated Holy Cross to the larger Sacred Heart of Jesus building nine blocks away.

Reacting to that news, parents, students and staff at Holy Cross launched a “save our school” public relations campaign on YouTube and in the community. (Sacred Heart of Jesus ran a similar YouTube campaign last fall when it was declared at-risk.)

The Holy Cross parents “were quite well-organized,” Ms. Davies said.

She said that Holy Cross was the only school “in that position” of not having the opportunity to come up with a plan for its future, and “we felt they needed to go through the same process.”

“It’s really important that we talk to the local community” in these situations, she said.

Parents at Holy Cross have been asked to form a committee and to prepare a proposal for presentation to Archbishop Dolan in November, Ms. Davies said. The proposal will then be evaluated and a decision will be announced, she said.

“Nobody can predict the future,” Ms. Davies said, “but clearly the West Side and Midtown need Catholic education.”

The archdiocese said in its April 7 announcement on the change of plans that the merger recommendation was made based on an analysis of how to best use existing buildings and resources to ensure that a fully enrolled and fully supported school would continue to be available to families on the West Side, both now and in the future.

The decision to keep Holy Cross open for another year was made after “a lot of consultation with the pastor and parent representatives,” Ms. Davies said.

The archdiocese announcement said, “Catholic schools recognize the invaluable role parents play in their children’s education and the need to include parent leadership in the planning process. The decision to keep Holy Cross open for another year was made to give families from both schools the opportunity to participate in future plans, under the direction of the superintendent’s staff and parish leadership.

“The families of Holy Cross School and Sacred Heart of Jesus School are to be commended for their commitment to their respective schools and the value they place on the mission of Catholic education. Working together with pastors, principals and representatives of the archdiocese, they will help develop a sustainable solution that will ensure a strong, long-term Catholic school presence on the West Side of Manhattan.”

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