Stunning News: 126-year-old Ascension Among 12 NYC Catholic Schools to Shut Down

The Archdiocese of New York, which cited changing demographics and declining enrollment due to the pandemic, was said to be spending $28 million a year to keep struggling schools open, according to one source. The 126 year school was founded by working class German immigrants in 1897.

| 17 Feb 2023 | 04:44

Stunned parents and teachers learned that 126 year old Ascension School on West 108th St. is among 12 Catholic elementary schools that will be forced to close at the end of the school year, according to an announcement from the Archdiocese of New York.

“It is never a good day when we announce closures to any of our beloved schools, but the goal is always to strengthen the remaining institutions and preserve Catholic education in New York for decades to come,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York in a press release.

“We are doing everything we can to minimize the impact this will have on families and will provide both educational guidance and pastoral support to all those affected to ensure all children will be warmly welcomed into a nearby Catholic school. We are all in this together, and with hard work and God’s blessings, we will come out on the other side.”

The archdiocese stated that the school closures were impacted by declining enrollment and shifting demographics, particularly post-pandemic.

Parents of children at Ascension were stunned and disappointed.

Ety Ben, whose daughter attends Ascension’s preschool, said she found out only yesterday that the school would be closing.

“The teacher only knew 15 minutes before us,” said Ben. “It’s crazy! We need to open the application again and sign her to another pre-K.”

“We’re so sad,” she continued. “My son was here three years ago, and it’s the best of the best, the best school ever. Even [though] we can afford private school, we prefer this. Me and all my friends—this is our first choice.”

Another mother, Princess Damion, shared similar feelings. “It’s sad. So sad,” she stated. “My son’s had major improvements here.”

Damion confirmed that the archdiocese had said they would help families find seats at other Catholic schools.

“We understand these are challenging times for many families, and this is indeed a sad day for everyone in our Catholic schools community,” shared Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New York.

“I personally mourn the loss of every one of our great schools. However, as we process this news, we must resolve that the great tradition of Catholic education in New York will continue, and we will assist all students who are seeking to carry on their Catholic education to find a seat at another excellent school in the Archdiocese.”

The school started on W. 107th St. the same year that the Ascension church, built by the largely by the German immigrants in the neighborhood that was once known as Manhattan Valley, opened. It soon moved to its present location and at its peak had a student population of 1,100 students, taught by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Charity. By the 1960s, the school still boasted over 600 students. But in the current school year, it was down 158 students.

In addition to Ascension, the list of Manhattan Catholic schools slated to close is as follows: Academy of St. Paul & St. Ann, on the upper East Side; Guardian Angel School in Chelsea, Immaculate Conception School in the East Village, and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Inwood.

Six Bronx schools are closing: Holy Family; Immaculate Conception on 760 E. Gun Hill Rd; (but not another Immaculate Conception on on 151st in the Bronx that was converted to a charter school run by the Partnership Schools), Santa Maria, St. Angela Merici, St. Brendan, St. Margaret Mary. One school is closing on Staten Island: Christopher. In addition four Bronx schools will merge into two: St. Francis Xavier will merge with St. Clare of Assisi and St. Garbriel will merge with St. Margaret of Cortona.

“It’s sad. So sad.” Princess Damion, mother of a student at Ascension School