Visitation Academy, the all-girls Catholic school in Bay Ridge, will close its doors at the end of this school year.
The school broke the news in a letter to parents on Feb. 6. According to Council Man Justin Brannan, school leaders have decided to sell the property, ending its 169-year legacy in Brooklyn.
“Everybody knows somebody who went to Visitation and many of my dear friends have their girls there today. It is truly hard to imagine Bay Ridge without Visitation,” he said in a statement.
In the letter to parents, which was shared with Brooklyn Paper, the Visitation Sisters of Brooklyn said there are only two nuns left at the Brooklyn Visitation Monastery.
“We have come to the sad decision that we must leave our home here and end our ministry and sponsorship of Visitation Academy,” the sisters wrote. “Despite the several creative efforts of the Visitation Academy Board, and others, we will close Visitation Academy at the end of this academic year in June 2024.”
Nadia Mastromichalis, who has two daughters enrolled at the school, said parents “have not been given answers” as to what exactly drove the decision to close the monastery and the school. Rumors that Visitation Academy was struggling financially and that the property was slated to be sold have been swirling for two years, she said, but school officials repeatedly reassured parents that nothing was amiss.
She was confused when she read on social media that the property would be sold, she said, because the letter did not say anything about a sale.
“It’s incredibly concerning, it’s disheartening,” Mastromichalis said. “We, as families who are part of the Visitation community, have been left in the dark.”
She said she hoped the school would share more information at a community meeting scheduled for later this week. In the Feb. 6 letter to parents, the Visitation Sisters said they would discuss “alternative educational opportunities for your daughter,” and that school officials will “work with families diligently to honor your choices and place your daughters in her next school.”
“The Diocese of Brooklyn is truly saddened by the impending loss of the presence of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Brooklyn,” said spokesman John Quaglione, in a statement. “There is a significant history to reflect on with great appreciation for their nearly 170-year commitment to the Catholic faith, the students, and the surrounding community.”
Quaglione added that the diocese is committed to helping all students transition to a new school.
While he has no official power to stop the school from making this “ill-advised” decision, Brannan said he will make sure that no matter how much money the school receives for the property, this land will not be used for luxury condos no one can afford. He plans to create a task force of local stakeholders who will help closely follow plans for the property.
“I want the community to be involved in deciding what’s the best for the future here,” he told Brooklyn Paper.
Mastromichalis was frustrated by how quickly locals began speculating about what would happen to the property “when my daughters don’t know what their academic future is going to look like in the fall.”
Visitation Academy, located at 8902 Ridge Blvd., was founded in 1855 and has remained a middle school for young girls seeking a faith-centered education. About 100 students attend the school, according to U.S. News and World Report, and the 7.5-acre campus includes a soccer field, a basketball court and two playgrounds.
According to their website, the 2023-2024 school year tuition was $9,950 per student.
Catholic schools have taken a hit in New York City in the last few years. In 2020, the Diocese of Brooklyn — which operates Visitation Academy — was forced to close six schools in Brooklyn and Queens, including Queen of the Rosary in Williamsburg and St. Gregory the Great in Crown Heights. Last year, the Archdiocese of New York — which operates separately from the Brooklyn Diocese — closed 12 schools and merge four together due to financial issues and low enrollment.
“There’s a faceless and nameless body that is calling the shots,” Mastromichalis said. “I can say with confidence that I am sure the vast majority, like myself, are disheartened by the fact that however this decision was made — whether or not it was within the monastery’s control, the school’s control, or if the directive came straight from Rome, the parents were kept in the dark and all we have wanted to do is help and find a feasible solution.”
– Additional reporting by Kirstyn Brendlen
Update 2/8/24, 1:37pm.: This story has been updated with information from the Visitation Sisters of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Brooklyn.