Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Wayne set to close because of declining enrollment

Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Wayne is scheduled to close because of declining student enrollment, a growing budget deficit, and competition from tuition-free public schools, it was announced earlier this month. The decision comes amid exhaustive efforts to rejuvenate the school’s educational offerings, improve community engagement, and fundraise, Father Mateusz Jasniewicz, Ed. S., MPA, the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, explained to parents and parishioners in a detailed letter. Efforts to increase student enrollment have resulted in very limited positive results.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share that Immaculate Heart of Mary School will not open in the fall,” said Father Jasniewicz in the message also published in the parish bulletin and on the school’s website. “This decision does not come lightly. It stems from deep consideration of our unsustainable circumstances.”

The complete text of the message is available to read online.

Despite a $224,000 subsidy from the parish, the expected school deficit for the year is $375,000. Addition-ally, a special fundraising initiative fell short of its goal. The parish has been carrying the remainder of the school’s operating costs. The projected enrollment for next year is 135 students, or 17 fewer pupils than the current academic year.

The K-8 school, like most other parochial schools in the Diocese of Paterson, is administered by the local parish to which it belongs and is a ministry of the parish supported by parishioners.

“Our parish can no longer shoulder the financial burden without compromising our wider mission,” the pastor said.

In sharing the news of the school’s future, Im-maculate Heart of Mary parish staff invited parents to forums for conversation with Father Jasniewicz, a parish trustee, and members of diocesan school leadership. At their request, Father Jasniewicz agreed to meet with a group of parents about proposals to fund the school in the future.

The Diocese of Paterson issued the following statement: “Diocesan Staff understand that the closing of a school raises a host of emotions and feelings for both parents and students. This is a time of grief and loss. No one from diocesan officials, to the local pastor, to concerned parents want to close a Catholic school. This school closing, like others, was considered only when it was evident that there was no way forward. In a time when there is such drastic decreased enrollment in some Catholic schools the challenge to make ends meet is very real and over time, sadly becomes impossible. Even the best of intentions sometimes fail to match the most sincere hopes for the future. When a profound disappointment is being processed it takes time to consider even reasonable explanations. Parents are still proposing questions and the diocese is happy to answer them. The Diocese of Paterson is committed to ongoing communication and is always listening to the hopes of parents who want to give their children the highest of values along with the best education.”

In order to ease the burden of the closing on parents and students, the diocese will provide a one-year $1,500-dollar subsidy for each student who chooses to transfer to a Catholic Elementary School of the Diocese of Paterson.

“In the midst of sadness, our faith keeps us hopeful,” diocesan leadership said in another statement released to the media. “The rich tradition and quality education of Immaculate Heart of Mary School have served many for several generations. That is something IHM, its administration, faculty, parents, students, and parishioners can always be proud of. Father Matthew Janiewicz, pastor of IHM, and Mrs. Sandra Giordano, principal of IHM, along with many dedicated parents, staff, and generous parishioners have provided Catholic education of the highest quality for the students of IHM in the face of many obstacles. The diocese thanks them for their selfless service and dedication to the young people of the school.”

Schools Superintendent Mary Baier said that Catholic elementary schools stand ready to accommodate the needs of families for their children. Parents are welcome to contact the Catholic Schools Office to discuss application/registration procedures, and concerns parents may be experiencing in making decisions for their children’s continued Catholic education.

“We need to support our school community: pastor, principal, students, families, faculty, and staff in all ways possible and to make this transition one filled with understanding, kindness, and care,” she said.

A meeting will be scheduled with Human Resources and the Catholic Schools Office to give IHM faculty the necessary guidance in applying for potential positions, preparation of their portfolio/resume, and a presentation to explain future benefits and unemployment. There is also a resource, the Employee Assistance Program, available to the teachers and staff to help cope with challenges, anxiety, and other factors that could impact one’s well-being.

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