The closure of a beloved Windsor Terrace Catholic school will throw students for a loop for the unworthy cause of making the church a quick buck, parents, students, and alumni said at a rally in front of the place on Monday.
More than 300 demonstrators gathered in front of Bishop Ford High School during the afternoon to call on the Diocese of Brooklyn to walk back its plan to shutter the school in June. One schoolkid in attendance said that the move to shutter the place, announced just two weeks ago and first reported by The Brooklyn Paper, is disrupting her planning for higher education.
“We were just starting to think about college,” said Guerley Denis, a junior at the school. “Now we have to figure out what high school we’ll be going to.”
The school’s principal Thomas Arria announced on April 14 that this will be the last year for the school, which has been open since 1962. In a statement, he cited declining enrollment numbers and income as reasons for the closing. The student rolls at Bishop Ford have shrunk from 1,347 to 499 in the past eight years, the statement said. And the school expected to have just 422 students next year.
A charter school in the building, the Brooklyn Urban Garden School, will remain open indefinitely with a lease that could be extended until 2020. Parents of Bishop Ford students believe their school should also stay, even if it is in a diminished form.
“Why not let us be a small school?” said Cathleen Smith-Carrano, who graduated from Bishop Ford in 1981 and is mom to an 11th-grader. “It’s very disturbing. Catholic education is just not being supported.”
Sierra Quinones, also a junior, attended Bishop Ford during her freshman year, but her family moved from Fifth Avenue to Staten Island, and she enrolled at a public high school. Her mother then got sick and passed away and Quinones felt a deep need to return to the school where she felt most at home.
“For me to heal, I had to come back here,” she said. “All of my friends are here. It really helped me.”
She came back for her junior year, but now the school could close before she graduates.
“I’m so upset,” Quinones said. “Plus we have to stress about finding another school.”
The rally’s organizer Frank Marra, class of 1973, says the church is more interested in making money than providing education.
“It’s a land grab,” said Marra, noting the school’s prime location near Green-Wood Cemetery. “The diocese is just interested in making money.”
A faculty member, who asked not to be named, backed Marra up.
“I’ve never seen a Catholic institution be so greedy,” the worker said. “The church is supposed to be about serving the community. They just want to take away. That’s not Christ-like.”
The group plans to present the diocese with an alternative plan that involves outside fund-raising as soon as they can arrange a meeting.