Parents pray, plan for school's salvation


Corrrection appended.

Parents and students from Our Lady of Angels Catholic school are praying for a guardian angel to take the 84-year-old institution off the chopping block. 

“Every night they’re praying and crying. This is the first time my kids have cried in my presence,” said Valentine Okwuka, a parent who credits the school for his four children’s good behavior and moral backbone. “I don’t know what to do about it.”

The archdiocese plans to close Our Lady of Angels and 25 other regional area Catholic schools this June to prevent more widespread school closures. 

The school community is scrambling to find a financial solution to prevent Our Lady of Angels, which in some cases has educated generations of the same family, from being shuttered. 

Our Lady of Angels School opened in 1928 and remains one of the few city schools with nuns — in this case, Sisters of Mercy nuns — still in its classrooms and administration.

Some fear their children will be priced out of Catholic education, which costs more at most other parochial schools.

Doreen Maddalena, of New Rochelle, said she spends an hour each morning driving her first grader Thomas and sixth grader Haley to school. Ms. Maddalena and her sister attended Our Lady of Angels in the 1980s and her mother continued to voluntarily teach computer classes at the Claflin Avenue school through the late 90s.

“I just can’t imagine this school’s doors not being opened. It’s not just about having to find another school, this is a family. In a lot of schools, you’re just a number. Sister Mary must know every kid’s name that ever walked in here. And the janitors know my kids by first name. How many people can say that?” said Ms. Maddalena, whose second grade teacher Lucy Farrell taught her son last year.

Manuel Boya, a Kingsbridge Heights resident, said he was worried that if Our Lady of Angels closed, he’d have trouble finding an affordable Catholic school for his first grader Manuel Boya Jr.  

“Can’t they tell by the academics that they’re doing wonderful compared to other schools?” Mr. Boya said. “Look at the academics.”

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