Monday, November 17, 2008

In Gotham, "Schools in Crisis"

Warning of an "alarming trend," this morning's New York Post reports that enrollment is "plummeting" in the Big Apple's Catholic schools:
In the Archdiocese of New York - which operates schools in Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx and northern suburbs - enrollment at elementary and high schools dropped by nearly 6,000 students in one year, to 88,273, officials said.

Diocese of Brooklyn elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens saw a drop of about 5 percent to 36,000 students.

Figures for Brooklyn diocese high schools were not immediately available.

"We see this as a crisis not just for Catholic education but for public education," said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference.

"As our schools close, these kids are generally going to end up in the public school system."

The archdiocese is developing a plan to make sure Catholic school remains affordable to low- and middle-class families.

The Brooklyn diocese is also working on a plan - but warned it could lead to further closures or consolidations.

"I would assume there will probably be a closure or closures, but I can't say that definitively until we've seen the data," said diocese spokesman Father Kieran Harrington.

"Our biggest concern is making sure our school system stays strong."

More than 1,300 Catholic schools nationwide have closed since 1990, according to a recent report.

The average Catholic high-school tuition in New York is $5,500, according to Poust, and less for elementary schools.

The economic downturn is only expected to make things worse, as is increasing competition from charter schools.