St. Joseph’s to close

GOWANDA – There was heartbreak in Gowanda Wednesday afternoon when it was announced St. Joseph’s School would be shutting its doors for good.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I am posting this, we have been notified that our school, which we adore, will be closing this June. Please pray for our families and our staff during this difficult transition,” St. Joseph’s School had posted on its Facebook page Wednesday.

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo announced Wednesday that 10 elementary schools will be closing their doors for good in the fall.

It is all part of the “Faith in Tomorrow” revitalization plan for Catholic education in western New York.

These schools have been suffering from low enrollments and struggling with finances.

The school closings will affect 1,154 students and 195 faculty and staff.

The enrollment of students at St. Joseph School was much too low, only 42 students. With these low numbers the school was operating under low capacity and had to close their doors.

According to the Catholic Diocese, the remaining schools will begin to transition into “Community Schools,” governed by lay advisory boards of limited jurisdiction that will work with pastors on budgeting, administrative hiring and evaluation, and other school operations.

Northern Chautauqua Catholic School in Dunkirk will remain open, and become a “transition school,” meaning it will be governed by lay advisory boards of limited jurisdiction that will work with pastors on budgeting, administrative hiring and evaluation, and other school operations.

A letter went out to the affected diocesan parents talking about the closing.

“We ask that you do everything you can to embrace new families and new students. These children and their parents will have to cope with losing what has become familiar to them, and try to fit into a new school with new faces, new uniforms, and a new milieu,” the letter said.

Carol Kostyniak, the diocese’s secretary for Catholic education, said at the news conference that the closure process has been “intense, data-driven and as inclusive as possible.”

The diocese’s focus “must be on our students,” she said, adding that the schools must adapt. She pointed to slower economic growth, demographic change, fewer households, aging populations and changing family structures as factors spurring the closures.

“We are closing and consolidating buildings, but the revitalization plan is truly about making Catholic schools stronger,” Kostyniak said.