BAY RIDGE — Faced with rapidly declining enrollments, two Bay Ridge Catholic schools have decided to stave off elimination by merging and creating a new academy that will focus on science, engineering and the arts, top officials at the two institutions confirmed to the Home Reporter on Thursday.
St. Anselm Catholic Academy and Holy Angels Catholic Academy will join together to become Bay Ridge Catholic, an academy that will operate out of St. Anselm’s building at 365 83rd St.
The new school is expected to open in September in 2020.
St. Anselm Catholic will host an information night for parents whose children are currently enrolled in the school on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Sister Meletia Hall, at 365 83rd St., at 7 p.m.
The Boards of Directors at St. Anselm Catholic Academy and Holy Angels Catholic Academy met separately and each voted unanimously to approve blending the two schools together into one entity.
Letters have been sent out to parents to inform them of the merger. The Diocese of Brooklyn, which oversees Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens, has offered advice and counsel on the move, according to officials. The officials also said, however, said the decision to merge was made at the local level and did not come from the diocese.
The merger means that St. Anselm and Holy Angels will cease to exist, said Mike Long, chairperson of Holy Angels’ board of directors. “It was a tough, heart-wrenching decision to close the two schools. But the great news is that we are creating a bigger, bolder, better school,” he told the Home Reporter.
Enrollments at the two schools have been in decline for several years, officials at both schools admitted. However, St. Anselm’s officials said they had successfully reversed the trend in recent years but still feel a new school is the best development for their children.
“Over a 10-year period enrollment has declined, but there has been some recent student growth at St. Anselm and there is positive energy,” St. Anselm Board of Directors Chairperson John Quaglione told the Home Reporter. Still, there are troubling signs for the school, Quaglione said. “We saw projections that enrollment would continue to decline. The student population will continue to go down. The pool as a whole is shrinking.”
By combining the two schools into one entity, leaders at both schools said they believe they can help save Catholic education in their section of Bay Ridge.
“We’re being proactive,” Long said. “We could have waited and done nothing, and then be faced with an emergency situation a year or two from now. We chose to act.”
Quaglione said the decision was not made lightly. “But leadership requires you to make tough decisions,” he told the Home Reporter. “I told parents that I’m glad I’m announcing a merger and not announcing that our school is closing.”
Bay Ridge Catholic is expected to open with an enrollment of 325-350 students, according to projections. Officials said they are hoping that number can climb to 500 within a few years.
The merger comes at a troubling time for Catholic schools in Brooklyn. Two well known schools, Bishop Kearney High School and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Academy, recently closed.
The new school will emphasize religious education, along with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), art and music, according to Long.
The school will likely enter into educational partnerships with colleges such as Fordham University, he said.
To help students get used to the idea of the new school coming in 2020, Quaglione said leaders at St. Anselm and Holy Angels are planning a series of events for this school year, including a Buddy Day, in which children will visit each other’s buildings.
Still to be determined is the make-up of the board of directors at Bay Ridge Catholic. And a search will have to be conducted for a principal for the new school.