ELMA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Parish priests and principals from several Catholic schools met behind closed doors Tuesday afternoon as the Buffalo Diocese moves forward with plans to downsize.
The list of which Catholic schools in WNY might be closed on consolidated hasn't been made yet, according to the Diocese. But schools in areas including Cheektowaga, West Seneca, and Orchard Park could face closure.
Diocese School Superintendent Sister Carol Cimino said, "It's a given, yes. There will be some, but it's not up to me. Not up to the Diocese. It's up to folks like this."
Downsizing is happening across Western New York. Notre Dame Academy, for example, is the only pre-K through 8th grade Catholic school left in South Buffalo. Half the Catholic schools in Western New York closed in the past 10 years.
Father David Bellittiere of Fourteen Holy Helpers Church in West Seneca said, "With declining enrollment, people leaving, less children in the schools, I mean...we have to do something."
Priests and principals will share information about resources and where their students come from, with the goal to create sustainable schools that might hold 400 students.
"This is not about closing schools. This is about revitalizing Catholic education," Sister Cimino said.
While the list has not been drawn up yet, some parents are anxious that their parish schools might be vulnerable.
Dawn Wisniewski, a parent from St. John Vianney, said, "Decisions are being made without input from the people who currently support Catholic schools."
About a half dozen parents whose children attend St. John Vianney School in Orchard Park gathered outside the closed meeting. Their school was ranked number two by Business First last year, but cannot house 400 students.
St. John Vianney parent Bill Near said, "I like the small classroom size, but economically maybe it doesn't work for them. But for us it works for educational purposes."
Lorraine Kaminski, a grandparent from St. John Vianney, added, "The big hurray suddenly to consolidate all these schools, I don't understand it. I don't understand it."
The parents argue that they pay tuition to keep the school going and also raise money for their church. They feel they should have a major say in the future of their school.
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