When enrollment dropped at both St. Daniels School in Lyncourt and St. Matthews School in East Syracuse, the two schools merged, forming St. Daniel-St. Matthew Academy.
During their first year together (just three years ago), there were 195 students who attended the elementary school, grades kindergarten through sixth.
"The second year, we dropped 40 students, down to 155, and this year, we dropped to 122," said Fr. Joseph Clemente, pastor of St. Matthews Parish.
Due to the steady decline in numbers, he and Monsignor Eugene Yennick, pastor of St. Daniels Church, had to make the unfortunate decision to close the school, which was announced to the public last week. About 20 teachers and staff will lose their jobs. Clemente described the finality of their decision as heart-wrenching; like the death of a family, he said.
"Tuition is just too high for most of our families to afford," Clemente said, adding that the current $3,700 yearly tuition would have increased $150 to $200 for next year. "That's the biggest problem."
Ideally, Clemente said, a Catholic School would have 175 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, which breaks down to about 25 children in each classroom, with a tuition between $3,700 and $3,900.
"That would work," he said.
However, the current state of the economy has weakened the job market, and as a consequence, family income. Priorities have had to change.
"We have had several parents of our students inform us that they've lost their job and so they're transitioning to a one-income family," Clemente said. "Of course, as soon as that happens, they're totally unable to pay the tuition."
Prior to the public announcement, parents attended a meeting to learn how the Academy would facilitate the transition. There are three area schools to which they can apply, including Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville, Holy Cross in DeWitt and Blessed Sacrament in Eastwood.