St. Joseph School in Auburn will close at the end of the academic year in June 2020, the Catholic Diocese of Rochester announced in a press release on Wednesday night.
The diocese said the closure is because of "years of declining enrollment and accompanying financial difficulties" at the school on East Genesee Street.
For this academic year, enrollment at St. Joseph is at a historic low of 93 students in pre-K through eighth grade and, according to the diocese, enrollment was projected to further decline.
According to the press release, the request to close the school was jointly made “with sadness and regret” by the pastors and parochial vicars of the Auburn parishes in a letter to Bishop Salvatore R. Matano. Pastors and parochial vicars recommended the closure, citing “severe financial difficulty” in continuing to use the Auburn parishes’ resources to subsidize the school's operation. Enrollment has declined by about 25 students each year for the past several years, the diocese said.
Matano accepted the recommendation after consultation in early November with the Presbyteral Council, made up of priests from throughout the diocese who advise the bishop. Also consulting was the College of Consultors and the diocesan school board.
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“I remain firm in my commitment to Catholic schools,” Matano said in the release, “with the hope that parents will choose a Catholic school education for their children so that increased enrollments will strengthen our Catholic schools. I truly empathize with the St. Joseph School community who desired a Catholic school education, but the low enrollment, the financial burden on the parishes and the depleted resources do not make this possible. I pray for their understanding and cooperation at this difficult time.”
The school was originally formed in 1973 as Blessed Trinity School, a result of the merging St. Alphonsus, Holy Family and St. Mary’s schools. Students from St. Hyacinth’s School joined in 1990. The presence of Catholic schools in Auburn dates back to at least 1867, when St. Mary's started.
In a public letter to the Auburn Catholic Community, the priests of the Auburn parishes, the Rev. Frank Lioi, the Rev. John Gathenya, the Rev. Michael Brown and the Rev. Justin Miller said, “We know that news of the closure effective at the end of the school year in June 2020 will cause considerable sorrow and pain, not only for those families who are currently enrolled at St. Joseph’s School, but also for the countless others who have benefited from Catholic education in its long and remarkable history in Auburn. We, too, share in your sadness. Let us come together as a community of faith to not only mourn the loss of this beloved institution, but also to find ways to celebrate all the precious memories.”
James Tauzel, interim diocesan schools superintendent, said in the release, “I am very grateful for the commitment to our children shown by Principal Mary Jo Keba and the teachers, staff and school families. All those involved at St. Joseph School through these many years have been tremendously dedicated to our students. The school may close, but wonderful memories will endure for those who passed through its doors and left well prepared spiritually and academically to make a difference in their community.”