Nearly a dozen Catholic schools in Massachusetts have closed their doors for good due this past year, and many more are expected to as a result of the economic toll from the pandemic.
The Boston Herald reported that 11 schools have permanently shut down due to factors such as low enrollment and financial difficulties.
“This is the largest number of closures in almost 50 years,” Thomas Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Boston Archdiocese, told the Herald. “This is a pretty extraordinary moment for the archdiocese."
The school closings are widespread across the state in Boston, Braintree, Chelsea, Holbrook, Kingston, Lowell, Marlborough, Methuen, Roxbury, Winchester, and Weymouth.
Carroll warns these 11 closings are just the start. Enrollment at these schools was down 7 percent from March, he said, as parents are choosing to forgo a private, Catholic education, as they struggle with financial hardships from the pandemic. While the church hasn't made any other decisions regarding schools in the state, he believes more will be gone in September and October.
This is not just an issue in Massachusetts; across the country, 140 Catholic schools have had to close down due to the pandemic's effects, according to officials. In New York City, 26 Catholic schools have closed, and 5 in Newark New Jersey.
The last option for some schools would be to lobby the government for more federal aid in order to keep their doors open. However, they may not be granted assistance, due to the fact they have already been given some type of assistance funding through government stimulus packages.
AP reported that many Catholic schools have received substantial federal aid from the U.S. Department of Education and from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to pay wages at businesses or nonprofits impacted by the pandemic. The aid still hasn't been enough for some to stay afloat.
Three of the nation’s highest-ranking Catholic leaders, in a recent joint appeal, said Catholic schools “are presently facing their greatest financial crisis” and cautioned that the country could see hundreds of additional closures. They warned that the future existence of these schools lies in the continued enrollment of students.
“Because of economic loss and uncertainty, many families are confronting the wrenching decision to pull their children out of Catholic schools,” said the appeal, signed by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop