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13 Jan 2015
MANVILLE – Rev. Stanislaw Slaby, CSsR, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish, announced Monday, January 12 that Christ the King School will not reopen for the 2015-2016 school year. Parents were notified at an open meeting held at the school that evening.
The decision, the pastor said, was made after consultation with the parish finance and pastoral councils, the school advisory committee and diocesan schools office and has been approved by Metuchen Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski.
The closure of Christ the King School, which opened its doors on September 6, 1968, is due to low enrollment, which already has resulted in a parish deficit of more than $1 million, according to Father Slaby. Further subsidizing the school would place an enormous burden on the parish, and even threaten its very existence, he added.
Currently, there are 125 enrolled students at Christ the King School. Student enrollment is the lowest it has been in the past ten years, the pastor explained, and is about half of the number needed to make the school viable, with student tuition covering only half the operating costs.
Also problematic is the loss of student bus transportation, which resulted in the parish paying two-thirds of busing costs in the 2013-14 academic year alone. Bus transportation was eliminated this year, due to low interest among school families.
“In reality, we would need 200 students for the school to be considered financially healthy,” Father Slaby said. “Right now, we are in a serious deficit and the parish cannot afford to undertake additional debt to keep the school open.”
According to the pastor, the parish has spent more than $1 million to subsidize the school over the past five years. In the last academic year (2013-14), the parish subsidy totaled $277,000. The projected subsidy for the current school year (2014-15) amounts to $295,000, a figure he said may increase with a further drop in enrollment or other unforeseen expenses.
Pointing to additional factors that may have contributed to enrollment issues, the pastor said a downturn in the economy has brought about increased financial hardships for many parishioners, making it difficult for them to afford tuition. As a result, there are fewer families with young children attending the parish school.
Currently, less than one-third of enrolled students at Christ the King School are parishioners, while 187 students who attend other local schools are enrolled in the parish’s religious education program.
A change in demographics over the last 10 years may have played a part in the enrollment decline, too. Father Slaby said many active parishioners are older and are not being equally replaced by younger parishioners. For instance, there have been 15 baptisms at the parish this past year compared to 61 parishioner deaths.
Other residents, he said, are moving out of the borough due to the flood problems that have plagued the community.
Despite some of the challenges it has faced in recent years, raising funds for the school was something Christ the Redeemer Parish was committed to, said Father Slaby. Each month, a collection for the school was taken up at both parish worship sites, Christ the King and Sacred Heart.
This year, the parish also introduced a Mega Raffle fundraiser to benefit the school with a goal to sell 3,000 tickets in order to raise $150,000, which would have cut this year’s deficit in half. In the end, the parish and school together raised $30,000, or one-fifth of the goal amount. The outcome was not what the pastor had hoped for.
“Despite our best efforts in fundraising, marketing and investing money into the school in an effort to create an excellent, safe, modern learning environment that was appealing to students and their families, we find ourselves in the difficult and undesirable position of having to close the school, which is greatly troubling to me,” Father Slaby said in his remarks.
Some of the investments cited by the pastor included the purchase of new computers, smart boards, and copy machines; creation of a library-media center, which doubles as a computer lab; and installation of a new camera security system. It also included facility renovations and improvements to common areas like the gym, cafeteria, entrance lobby, restrooms and outdoor landscaping.
The somber pastor continued, “I have a great love for the school and I’m really sorry that I was unable to keep the enrollment high. I assure you that I – along with our very committed principal, teachers, staff, home school association, and school advisory committee – tried everything to keep the school running.
“I pray that the last few months of Christ the King School will be some of the best months for our children and will provide an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the rich history and achievements of our school,” he concluded.
The pastor stressed his belief in the importance of Catholic education and its mission and encouraged all families of Christ the King School to continue to make Catholic education a priority for their children.
Father Slaby urged families to attend the upcoming Open Houses to be held at parochial schools in neighboring communities within a ten-mile radius, such as: St. Ann School in Raritan; Immaculate Conception School in Somerville; St. Matthias School in Somerset; and St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Bridgewater (Pre-K and Kindergarten only). All of these schools, he said, would be excellent options for those parents who intend to send their children to another area Catholic school.
Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Ellen Ayoub, who was at the meeting, assured those gathered that the Office of Schools will continue to work closely with the school to assist families who wish to transition to other schools in the Diocese of Metuchen.
Open Houses will take place at Catholic schools across the diocese during National Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 25-31. To locate a school in the Diocese of Metuchen, visit http://diometuchen.org/find-a-school.