Saint Mary of the Lake School
The bishop announced, this week, that Saint Mary of the Lake School would be closing. But what neither he nor his staff have addressed is why.
Why would a school that meets every single criteria as set for the by the diocese close over one that does not?
St. Mary of the Lake has 24-plus classrooms and can hold 450 students. St. Mary’s has science labs, art, music, outdoor learning space, two cafeterias and a gym. St. Mary’s also has a dance studio and a home economics room. St. Mary’s has students in PreK–3 through eighth grade and have maintained a steady enrollment for years.
In comparison, Southtowns Catholic has 12 classrooms and can only hold only 250 students. Southtowns does not have a cafeteria and they share an art, music room and library. Southtowns does not have a PreK–3 program.
Do you wonder, yet, why we are demanding answers? I invite you all to take tours of the schools; the differences are immediately evident.
The criteria also stated that the schools need to be financially viable and St. Mary’s is. In fact, they have never been in better financial shape. St. Mary’s is self-supporting with funds from tuition, fundraising and outstanding parish support. St. Mary’s received less that 2 percent of their annual budget from the diocese. This 2 percent comes in the form of grant money that needy parents at St. Mary’s apply for, through the Bison Fund.
Additional criteria that was considered by the diocese included new parish families (St. Mary’s had almost 100 new families join the parish), baptisms (St. Mary’s had 43 children baptized last year) and poverty levels.
St. Mary’s student body has a 35 percent poverty rate. These students are able to attend St. Mary’s because of the unbelievable generosity of its parishioners.
The bishop and his staff have stated that “we have a moral duty to provide programs and services to assist people of limited means.” That should apply beyond the city of Buffalo. Southtowns Catholic has a significantly lower poverty level of 3.37 percent.
St. Mary of the Lake School welcomes families from all over the area. Students come from South Buffalo to Irving, Lackawanna to North Collins, Hamburg, Boston and Eden. These students come to St. Mary’s and bypass closer schools because St. Mary’s offers so much more.
Why would the bishop close a school that meets all the criteria set forth and leave open a facility that doesn’t meet those same criteria? Perhaps that is the hundred thousand dollar question; or is it the million dollar question?
St. Mary of the Lake