One hundred and fifteen Jamestown area children in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades don't know where they will attend school in September.
The recent announcement that the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family will not be open for the 2012-13 school year has left those students and their families with a tough decision. The school's kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment as 69 children.
Following the past closings of Ss. Peter and Paul, St. James Schools and Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic School, the end of the 140-year-old Holy Family marked the demise of private Catholic education in the Jamestown area. Participating in the other options for parochial schooling under the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo may prove challenging for Jamestown residents, however, as the only institutions are located a significant distance away in Dunkirk, Gowanda and Olean.
A statue outside the former Catholic Academy of the Holy Family is pictured Friday. Families whose children attended the school are now trying to decide where their children will go to school.
P-J photo by Nicholena Moon
When asked about the future of her children's education, Cynthia Zuech, co-president of the Holy Family Parents Association, was unsure what she and her family will do.
"They don't have the time or the money to do that in the public schools," Zuech said. "There is no other pre-school program like Holy Family's out there.'
Another unique aspect of Holy Family was that it was the only school to practice the methods of the Montessori educational program. Dr. Lillian Ney, member of the Holy Family Board of Education, appreciated the school's passion for improving its students education.
Holy Family was the only school in the area to provide its students with access to programs like the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, which partnered the school with Jamestown Community College, the State University at Fredonia, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and the Audubon Society for expansive learning sessions outside of the classroom. The school also began teaching the children Spanish as early as kindergarten.
"When people are looking to move, they want to know what schools are available. You know, 'Where can I send my children? Where will they get the best education?'" she said.
"It's important to the community," Dr. Ney added. "I help with physician recruitment, and many of the recruits that come through, they want to see the school, and they want to look at Montessori, because they know Montessori. They don't know anything else about Jamestown, but they latch onto that concept."
According to Dr. Ney, Holy Family offered an excellent education, and the evidence of that could be seen in what its graduates went on to do in their high school career.
"When I went to the Jamestown High School awards night, three of the top ten students were graduates of Holy Family school, and that's a very small school," said Dr. Ney, "so I think the academic experience is pretty clear."
"I liked the fact that my children had more of an individualized education. That was really nice," Zuech said.
As a result of the closing, many of the parents have been considering sending their children to Bethel Baptist, public schools where the children live or homeschooling their children. However, these may be a less-than-ideal choices for some students.
"We had a lot of children at our school that needed extra attention, that needed a little more one-on-one, that moved there because they were being bullied in the public schools," said Zuech.
With the closing of Holy Family marking the end of an era for Catholic education in the city, Dr. Ney said the school leaves a lasting legacy.
"I went there in junior high school, and my two sisters did and my own daughters went there," Dr. Ney said. "And for us it was something that was important and it worked. There are a lot of people we know who work in the city of Jamestown that were graduates of the Catholic school system, and they seem proud of it."