‘Difficult,’ but necessary

What do you get when a non-taxpayer funded school begins to have declining enrollment? You get what happened last week, when the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo announced the closings of 10 Catholic schools.

Impacted in the announcement are 1,154 students as well as 195 faculty members. On a local level, the St. Joseph’s School in Gowanda will be closing at the end of this year. “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.

At St. Joseph, there were currently 42 students attending – a number too few to justify keeping the facility open.

Even if you disagree with the decisions on closings, one must admit the courageous nature of the diocese. Closing any school will bring a number of complaints and criticism.

It is also unfortunate some particular legislative body overseeing Chautauqua County’s 18 school districts cannot make a decision of this nature. Currently, four school districts in our area have enrollments of around 700 students or less, yet the budgets for these drop-in-the-bucket districts total more than $49.1 million.

Is that good use of taxpayer money? Of course not, but stubborn traditions and identity values get in the way of higher educational standards, more course and extracurricular offerings.

As we noted last week, the major issue – after a superintendent resignation and questionable actions by another administrator – sports is the big issue at Cassadaga Valley Central Schools. Will enough athletes be willing to play? Can we consider merging sports teams with another school?

Big districts do not have these problems. Small districts, however, are nearing bankruptcy.

Imagine that. Bankruptcy even though $49 million in tax dollars goes to four districts with enrollments of 700 students or less.

Are we out of touch or what?