Students, parents protest school closing

February 27, 2009 4:11:03 PM PST
A loud and boisterous protest was held Friday by hundreds of students in New Jersey. They are fighting to keep their school open after the archdiocese announced it was closing. St. Joseph of the Palisades High School in West New York is shutting down because of dwindling enrollment.

They still have plenty of strong school spirit, but enrollment at St. Joseph's is weak. It has declined to 222 students after 37 left this school year. There is already a huge financial deficit and the Newark archdiocese says its getting worse.

"This particular year, on top of the million and a half deficit, the high school is scheduled to produce a shortfall between revenue and expenses of almost $400,000," archdiocese spokesperson Jim Goodness said.

"The archbishop should realize that we're kids and we need to stick together as a family," student Nayla Fernande said.

Support for protesting students was overwhelming, shutting down traffic on the street in front of the school.

St. Joseph's on the Palisades has brought pride to the community and to entire families, who have been going to this school for generations.

"My brother graduated from here, and I want to be the second Solan to graduate from here," junior Tyler Solan said. "Now that I can't, it's like somebody is slapping me in the face."

"I'm very concerned about my daughter right now, because it's so sad that next year she won't be coming here," parent Mercedes Fernandez said. "I have no idea where I am going to put her then."

The school closing leaked out through the media. The staff was devastated.

"My heart goes out for the kids," football coach Guy Bertola said. "I'm a 36-year-old coach. I'm going to get a coaching job anywhere in America. I'm worried about the kids and some of the older teachers who aren't going to get hired anywhere else."

The school closing follows a pattern of parish schools shutting down, but students pledge to support their school until the end.

"We are known as the fighting blue jays, and we are not going down without a fight," student William Hanna said.

Church officials say the decision is final. When 75 senior graduate this year, that will be last graduating class. The possibility brings nothing but sadness the students who planned to graduate from St. Josephs next year.

More protests are planned. The archdiocese says they will hold a school fair, where other Catholic schools in the area will encourage students to come to their schools.