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Diocese closing parish grammar school in Falls

A Niagara Falls parochial school has been added to the list of closings in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

St. John de La Salle parish school at 8477 Buffalo Ave. will be shut down in June, at the end of the current school year, leaving two Catholic grammar schools in Niagara Falls.

Pupils, teachers and parents received word of the planned closing Monday afternoon.

The diocese last month announced four parish schools will close in June, two in South Buffalo, one in West Seneca and one in Batavia. A regional school will be created in South Buffalo to accommodate students from St. Martin of Tours, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure parish schools.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec said in a statement that the closing was necessary to help make the remaining Catholic schools "centers of academic excellence."

St. John de La Salle parish school is part of the Niagara Falls Catholic School Network, which relies on the support of 14 sponsoring parishes. The network's board of pastors voted to close the school after projecting an operating deficit of $125,000 if it were to remain open.

The school this year enrolled 76 pupils in grades kindergarten through five and 44 prekindergartners. Enrollment was almost twice that number in 1996.

Ten full-time and five part-time employees will lose their jobs.

Niagara Falls had five parish schools a decade ago and seven in the late 1980s. St. Joseph School was closed in 2003; Sacred Heart School shut down in 2001.

Students from St. John de La Salle will be able to attend Our Lady of Mount Carmel School or Prince of Peace School next fall. As part of the network, all three schools charge $1,400 tuition -- less for prekindergarten students.

Diocesan officials don't expect to announce any more school closings this year, said spokesman Kevin A. Keenan.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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