Parish will close Our Lady of Lourdes School in June

A steep drop in enrollment and the high cost of running the school mean the school will close for good at the end of the year.

This is will be the final year of Our Lady of Lourdes School in Milltown.

On Thursday, the Rev. Edward A. Czarcinski, Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish announced that Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski has accepted a proposal of the parish Finance Council and School Advisory Council that Our Lady of Lourdes School be closed at the end of the current school year.

Father Czarcinski told parents at an open meeting held in the Church Thursday evening that the decision was made due to a steep and rapid drop in enrollment and the high cost of operating the school which he said, is about $1 million annually.

“It breaks my heart, but it comes down to economics; it's simply a fiscal matter” the pastor said, clearing his throat. “There are two things that we would need to survive: we need money and we need children.”

Currently the school has 163 students in grades Pre-K 3 to 8. Only 119 students have registered for the 2013-2014 school year. That is about half of the school’s capacity.

Father Czarcinski emphasized the school did undertake increased marketing and advertising efforts throughout the year in an effort to attract and retain students and said that he remained optimistic about enrollment figures until very recently. However, when there were no new registrations in grades 1 through 8 following an Open House in April and he learned of a forecasted 38 percent drop in enrollment, he realized the gravity of the situation.

This year at Our Lady of Lourdes, two classes have only 10 students and most others have no more than 15. Next year, there would be even fewer children in each class and the operating costs would remain the same, he said.

In keeping the school open, the financial burden would remain on the parish and, since the majority of students who attend the school are not associated with the parish, Father Czarcinski said, it would be unfair to continue to ask the parishioners to give a quarter million dollars annually to sustain the school.

While the parish has subsidized the school generously over the years, it did so only by dipping heavily into its savings. Continuing to subsidize the school would bankrupt the parish, he said, and as Pastor he was unwilling to put the parish in such a position.

Father Czarcinski said the previous Pastor, Father Thomas Perunilum, had left the parish with a very robust financial standing, however, “Most of it left through the school. It's a big financial drain for our little parish, our little community, to carry a million dollar budget on something. It is just too hard and too heavy.”

“I understand if you feel angry or hurt. I am very sad myself. When I came back here as the Pastor, my main objective was to save the school,” he said. “If we could run the school on spirit, on enthusiasm, on desire, we would be impossibly rich.”

The school went through a similar experience seven years ago when it was announced that Our Lady of Lourdes would closed but, at the time, parents successfully rallied to keep the doors open. Father Czarcinski, who was not the Pastor then, explained the current situation is more dire because of such an unprecedented and “precipitous drop” in enrollment. He also noted the operating expenses at the time were not as great as they are today.

Ellen Ayoub, Diocesan Superintendent of Schools, who was at the meeting, assured parents that she will work with the school to help ensure the transition for students is as easy as possible and said she will be available to speak with anyone who has questions or needs assistance.

Regarding the suddenness of the announcement, the Pastor said he has been forthright in letting school families know that the school has been in a “crisis mode” since the last threat of closure. The Pastor and principal have stressed constantly the need to have full and committed participation in the various school fundraisers and volunteer commitments, but even then they have been unable to collectively raise the money needed to help maintain the school.

When asked by parents if the decision was final, Father Czarcinski responded, “All of us here in the school community have been working very, very hard. If I could have seen improvement, or even the hope of improvement, I would have suggested that we try to keep our doors open for another year. But, sadly that is not the case. And so, yes, this is the final decision.”

—Diocese of Metuchen, Office of Communications

Christopher May 11, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Good. One less place for kids to be brainwashed.
ShameOnOLOL May 11, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Why would anyone parent send their child to this school. This parish, Father Ed in particular, does not welcome children with special needs into their CCD program. When questioned on this stance, Father Ed suggested the family look for another parish. Shame on this parish. Karma !!!
Stacy Krul May 18, 2013 at 01:49 AM
I am sorry, but you are wrong.
Stacy Krul May 18, 2013 at 01:54 AM
You must be very unhappy person. I bet those students will be the first reaching out to you when you need help. They have hearts.
Christopher May 18, 2013 at 02:00 AM
Stacy, Nothing makes me happier than seeing the demise of the Catholic Church. So many more children spared the pain of physical and emotional abuse, able to (hopefully) lead normal lives.
Stacy Krul May 19, 2013 at 01:02 AM
What you said about Catholic Schools is your perception but it is not the absolute truth. YOU have right to have your opinion, but you have no right to ruin other people good name. You do not know what love is. You must be very sad and unhappy in your heart. Your words are telling me that you did not experience the real love and joy. I hope your words will not be held against you when you will close your eyes for the last time. That day will surely come. What do you expect than? God is love - try to open your heart to that love before is too late. God is merciful but just. I pray that you experience His merciful love before He will come as Just Judge.
Stacy Krul May 19, 2013 at 01:11 AM
As a parent of a special needs child you should know about LRE - By law, schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to the individual student's needs. If we need to argue that case, I would love to know what are your child’s needs. Does your child attend regular classrooms? Is he/she successful in regular classroom or he/she required special accommodations. It is not fair for your child to be placed in the classroom that he/she cannot succeed. Did you ever consider homeschooling for CCD? Iin fact parents are the first who pass the faith to the children.
Stacy Krul May 19, 2013 at 01:43 AM
I think you are aware of LRE - is your child in regular classroom setting. Is he/she successful? It is east to blame the priest, but can you tell me what are the accommodations for your child in the classroom? If you honesty share that I would move on with the conversation. AS far as I know there are children with special needs in the program. Why your case is so different? Maybe homeschooling would be better alternative. In fact parents are the first who should teach about faith.
Christopher May 19, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Stacy, trust me - ever since waking up to the truth about the Catholic Church, I've had nothing but happiness in my life. And keeping my children as far away from the Church and from people like you is one of the best ways I can demonstrate just how much I love and care about them. I stand by what I said. The power and influence of the Catholic Church has been steadily declining for decades as more and more families choose intellectualism over man-made fairy tales. The closing of Our Lady of Lourdes is just another validation of the Catholic Church's inevitable decline into obscurity and irrelevance. Good riddance.
Stacy Krul May 20, 2013 at 01:52 AM
That's selfish love - you keep your children away from church - just for yourself, but your children are gifts from God. You gave them body but God gave them souls and one they God will claim what belong to Him. Do not keep your kids in cage - let them be free. As a father, your responsibility to provide for your kids, but teaching them faith and prayer is crucial. After you are gone – where do you want your kids to meet – in church praying or in the court fighting over your material riches. YOU must be very weak and fragile that’s why you want to stick with the “strong” and you think that the Church is weak. God loves you with his everlasting love, but you must be really hurt. He loves you even if you do not love Him, but He is waiting for you. Maybe you feel that you do not need Him, but remember He is waiting for you. IF you read this till this point you made your first step and eventually you will find your way home. Here is the challenge – check that link and watch till the end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v79iKC_HRTY. I bet you will stop after two minutes; I would love to hear from you only if you are strong enough to watch it to the end. Perseverance.


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