Diocese of Metuchen and Piscataway Township School District officials meet to discuss nonpublic school transportation

9 Sept 2015

PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Diocese of Metuchen has announced that Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School in South Amboy will not reopen in the fall. Current and incoming students will have the option to attend the Bishop Ahr High School in Edison, also a diocesan school.
Once an academic institution with close to 500 students at its full capacity, according to the diocese, only 210 students are registered for the 2015-16 academic year, and that is not enough to keep the high school open.
The closing of Cardinal McCarrick will not impact Sacred Heart Elementary School, part of the Raritan Bay Catholic Prep campus, which currently has enrollment of 220 students in pre-k through grade eight.
The decision to close Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School was made by the diocesan Office of Schools, in consultation with the diocesan Department of Temporal Affairs and the Diocesan Catholic Schools Commission, and was accepted by Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski.
The Diocese of Metuchen, which oversees the administration of the school, cited a number of factors that influenced the closing including diminishing enrollment, ongoing need for capital improvements, and changing demographics, resulting in fewer area families who are choosing to send their children to the high school. There also is a growing need for new technology and other academic advances.
All of these factors have resulted in a continually growing subsidy – amounting to about $1.8 million annually – that the diocese is unable to sustain. According to diocesan officials, over the past five years alone, the diocese has invested over $7.3 million in operating Cardinal McCarrick High School.
“This is a very difficult and emotional decision and was not taken lightly by anyone involved,” said Ellen Ayoub, diocesan Superintendent of Schools. “It was not just one factor that led to the decision. The accumulated weight of so many issues indicated that there was no option but to close the school.”
Ayoub emphasized that, “The Schools Office is committed to helping ensure a smooth transition as possible for all those affected.” She said, Cardinal McCarrick students who choose to attend Bishop Ahr this Fall are guaranteed that their agreed upon tuition for the 2015-16 academic year will remain the same.
The superintendent noted that because of a larger enrollment – currently around 750 students – Bishop Ahr can offer more educational opportunities and extracurricular activities for students including a larger campus; updated facilities; onsite athletic fields; more advanced technologies used in instruction; and expanded academic programs. Bishop Ahr’s campus ministry program is well regarded, she said. The school’s more than 50 afterschool activities, “give the students more opportunities to serve in leadership roles and to explore their interests.”
Ayoub said Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School administration and the diocese have worked closely together over the past eight years, at least, to find ways to help the school to grow and prosper. About five years ago, a task force made up of diocesan personnel, school administrators, faculty and staff, was formed to focus on key areas including student enrollment and retention, curriculum development, finance management, facilities management, fundraising, marketing and advertising, and college placement.
“It was a true partnership between the school and the diocese. Everyone was fully committed and wanted to see it work,” said Ayoub. “Despite our best attempt, our collective efforts have not yielded the results we all had hoped for given the long history of the school and its significance in the surrounding community.”
Bishop Ahr will hold open house information sessions for Cardinal McCarrick students and their parents on May 28, June 3 and June 8. Parents can call 732-549-1108 for more information.

PISCATAWAY – Diocesan school officials today met with Piscataway Township public school district officials to discuss viable options to reinstate busing services for nonpublic school students, who reside in the township.

Following the meeting at the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center, Teresa M. Rafferty, Superintendent of Schools of the Piscataway School District, said she and her staff immediately will work to come up with a viable plan that would allow bus transportation to resume for 40 St. Francis and Holy Savior Academy students, who previously were denied bus service for the 2015-16 academic year.

“Our meeting today was respectful and productive,” said Ellen Ayoub, Superintendent of Schools of the Diocese of Metuchen. “We were afforded an opportunity to engage in effective dialogue with district officials and to work toward a solution together. This is what we set out to do.”

Ayoub said, Piscataway Township school district officials will take another look at the two eliminated bus routes to see what can be done.

“We are hopeful that the district can present a reasonable plan for student busing that we can accept so that we may resolve this matter expeditiously, for the benefit of the students, families and schools affected.”

Ayoub said she has been assured by public school district officials that they are committed to working together to find a solution as quickly as possible. According to district officials, students may be back on buses as early as Monday, Sept. 14.

Holy Savior Academy and St. Francis School principals, Kristen Kiernan and Barbara Stevens, said they will keep parents informed of any progress made in the area of reinstating student bus transportation for their children. They also encourage parents to attend the Sept. 10 open Board of Education Meeting as planned.

Kiernan and Stevens said the school communities would like to be able to thank school district members in person at the meeting for their willingness to work with the Diocese on finding a solution for student busing and also to encourage the district to keep nonpublic school transportation a priority in the future.

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