Hartford's last Catholic school closure part of growing trend - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hartford's last Catholic school closure part of growing trend

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The last Catholic school in Hartford is set to close, signifying the end of an era.

St. Augustine School will be merging with St. Brigid in West Hartford.

Some parents told Eyewitness News that they were excited.

"It's local, it's community to us," said Delmaris Serrano.

Serrano said mornings are busy for her. She runs her children to school, two of whom attend St. Augustine.

Next year, she'll have to trek three more miles into West Hartford.

"I think it's a great opportunity for a lot of students, parents, and families, too," Serrano said.

School officials said the issue is with the St. Augustine building itself. It would cost more than $8 million to update.

It needs structural repairs, classroom maintenance and technological upgrades.

"All the computers and technology are updating, and it's going to be great for all the kids to have a better opportunity and stuff," said Matthew Quintana, future St. Brigid's School student.

As a result, St. Augustine pastor Jose Mercado reached out to his old seminary classmate and the pastor of St. Brigid, Father Joseph Crowley, about merging.

Not everyone is on board with the plan, however.

"It upsets me," said Carla Cemino, a mother. "Family members have been going here for a long time already and my son has a lot of friends, so it's upsetting."

Next year, the schools will form the St. Brigid, St. Augustine Partnership School in West Hartford.

St. Brigid has been updated and the merger will help fill it up, according to school officials.

Crowley said right now, 64 students attend a school that can hold 350.

Students in Hartford will still be able to ride the bus to West Hartford and tuition assistance will be made available to those relocating to the new school.

"We will be working very closely with our families to ensure that they continue on to this partnership school," Father Mercado said.

"The wonderful children of St. Augustine's come down here and join our community and we work together to join a wonderful partnership," Crowley said.

This isn't the first time a Catholic school announced a closing in the Greater Hartford Diocese.

Elementary school enrollment in the diocese has dropped about 35 percent over the past 10 years. It has gone from nearly 14,000 students to 9,000 this year.

"We just don't have the birthrate right now and the students we need to fill all the different schools," said Dale Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools.

St. Gabriel School in Milford and St. Anthony Elementary in Bristol are both scheduled to close due to declining enrollment.

Hoyt said he prefers the see partnerships and mergers as opposed to outright closures.

Hartford students will be able to meet with their new classmates in West Hartford next Friday.

A "partnership" day will give them a chance to tour the school, eat lunch and celebrate mass together.

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    On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Hartford announced that the city’s last remaining Catholic school will be closing.

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