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St. Francis-St. Hedwig School in Naugatuck to Close at End of Academic Year

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Maria Zone
Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Hartford
(860) 541-6491
Maria.Zone@aohct.org

HARTFORD, Conn. (March 8, 2018) – After a financial review by the pastor and parish trustees, in consultation with the parish Finance Council and Parish Council,  it was determined that St. Francis – St. Hedwig School, 294 Church St., Naugatuck, will close at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. St. Francis of Assisi Parish, which operates the school, can no longer financially sustain the school. The announcement was made on Thursday, March 8.

The decision followed a month-long dialogue with local government leaders and members of the St. Francis – St. Hedwig School Foundation Inc., which failed to yield workable solutions to the school’s financial struggles and as a result, closure could not be avoided. A proposal by the group was not accepted by the parish due to its reliance on unrealistic financial and enrollment projections, which would result in additional costs to the parish.

In a parish-owned school, tuition income is a significant factor impacting financial stability, and currently there are only 148 students in grades pre-k through grade eight, a loss of 105 students in the last six years. The current enrollment is 23 students fewer than had been budgeted. The school has received over $200,000 in assistance over the past ten years through the support of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and the generosity of parishioners across the Archdiocese. Despite this fact, recent financial analysis has confirmed an expected shortfall of at least $266,000 by the end of the year, with the burden of this debt falling on St. Francis of Assisi Parish.  Superintendent Dr. Michael Griffin noted that the school has not had sufficient funds for benefits costs since the fall, which will result in a debt to the parish of $189,000 by the end of this school year.

A recent open house intended to attract more students for the fall brought in only nine additional potential students. Inquiries from only ten others have been received, and only 115 current students have expressed an interest in returning next year. In addition, there is no funding to make the significant capital repairs required to renovate the school in the future.

“While I have been honored to serve St. Francis-St. Hedwig School and the wonderful local community, and to work with such fine, dedicated faculty and committed families, the enrollment and finances simply are not at the level necessary to sustain the school,” said Principal Dr. John Alfone.

Fr. Sebastian Kos, who was assigned to the parish school only eight months ago after the Archdiocesan-wide parish pastoral plan was implemented, says he wishes the circumstances were different.

“I am sad for the teachers, administrators, and especially the students and their families. No one wants to close a school, but the finances don’t lie. The financial review shows that neither the parish nor the school would have the resources to cover the shortfall or support the necessary structural improvements,” said Fr. Kos.

The hope is that St. Francis – St. Hedwig students will continue their Catholic education at other neighboring Catholic schools in the Waterbury region. Schools include the newly established Catholic Academy of Waterbury, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and SS. Peter and Paul Schools in Waterbury, as well as St. Mary – St. Michael School in Derby, Assumption School in Ansonia, St. Bridget School in Cheshire, St. Mary Magdalen School in Oakville, St. John the Evangelist School in Watertown, and other area Catholic schools.

Teachers from St. Francis – St. Hedwig School will be given priority status when applying to other area Catholic schools.

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FAQs About St. Francis-St. Hedwig School in Naugatuck

Q: Why was the decision made to close St. Francis-St. Hedwig School?

A: In a parish-owned school, tuition income is a significant factor impacting financial stability.  With only 148 students, this income is insufficient to maintain the school’s financial viability into the future.  A recent open house intended to attract more students for the fall brought in only nine additional potential students. Inquiries from only ten others have been received, and only 115 current students have expressed an interest in returning next year. A comprehensive review of St. Francis-St. Hedwig School finances showed that the school is anticipating a shortfall of $266,000 by the end of this school year, which does not include the cost of major building renovations that are also required. Neither the school nor the parish has the resources to cover the shortfall or the necessary renovations.

Q: What was the result of recent discussions between local and Archdiocesan leaders regarding the future of St. Francis-St. Hedwig School?

A: Parish and Archdiocesan representatives met with Naugatuck government leaders and members of the St. Francis-St. Hedwig School Foundation, Inc. to discuss options for preventing the school’s closure. Unfortunately, these conversations failed to yield workable solutions to the school’s financial struggles and as a result, closure could not be avoided.  A proposal by the group was not accepted by the parish due to its reliance on unrealistic financial and enrollment projections, which would result in additional costs to the parish.

Q: What Catholic schools are available to St. Francis-St. Hedwig students?

A: Families are encouraged to send their students to other neighboring Catholic schools in the Waterbury region. Schools include the newly established Catholic Academy of Waterbury, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and SS. Peter and Paul Schools in Waterbury, St. Mary–St. Michael School in Derby, Assumption School in Ansonia, St. Bridget School in Cheshire, St. Mary Magdalen School in Oakville, St. John the Evangelist School in Watertown, and other area Catholic schools.

A list of Catholic schools in the region, with contact information, is being provided to each family. Parents/guardians are welcome to contact each school directly with questions.

Q: Will transportation be an issue for students?

A: Currently, there is no cross-town bus service for Catholic schools between towns, so students would have to rely on family or public transit. The Archdiocese of Hartford and the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis (OEEC) are constantly advocating for cross-town busing through the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, but it is an issue that needs more support from state legislators.

 Q: Will any of the St. Francis-St. Hedwig School faculty be employed at other Catholic schools?

A: Teachers from St. Francis-St. Hedwig School will be given priority status when applying to other area Catholic schools.

Q: Will students require a new uniform?

A: Students who attend another Catholic school will transition into the uniform of the new school. Catholic schools often offer a Uniform Swap that is free of charge, and this will be available to St. Francis-St. Hedwig families.

Q: Will refunds be given to families who have placed a deposit to attend St. Francis-St. Hedwig School?

A: Yes, these deposits will be returned.

Q: What role does the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis (OEEC) play in the decision to close St. Francis-St. Hedwig School?

A: The recommendation to close schools is not the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Hartford nor the OEEC, since parish-owned schools such as St. Francis-St. Hedwig are the mission and ministry of their parish. Consultation takes place with the OEEC, but ultimately the pastor and parish trustees must make a determination whether the school and parish have the financial resources to sustain the school. A recommendation is then submitted by the parish to the Archbishop regarding the decision to be made.

Q: Why can’t the Archdiocese of Hartford or the Hartford Bishops’ Foundation assist St. Francis-St. Hedwig School?

A: The office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis (OEEC) assists Catholic schools with a variety of services as well as funding which can help students and their families at the parish level, thanks to the generosity of the Catholic people to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.  However, there is not sufficient funding to provide operational funds to parishes that because of income and enrollment problems are no longer able to maintain their school.  This is also true with regard to the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS) which provides scholarships but not operational funds.  As for The Harford Bishops’ Foundation, which is just beginning, the purpose of the funds it raises is not for the operation of parishes and schools, but rather to support innovation and transformative projects that can improve the quality of parish life, Catholic schools, religious education and lifelong learning.

Q: Why should my child continue in Catholic school education? 

A: As a Catholic school parent, we know you appreciate the benefits of a faith-based education, which include strong Catholic identity, an emphasis on Christian morals and character development, academic rigor, personalized instruction, and a safe, nurturing environment.

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