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  • Jun
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Milford Catholic School closing

Posted By June 22, 2017 | 12:11 pm | Lead Story #2
Milford Catholic Elementary School
Milford Catholic Elementary School

William T. Clew
The Catholic Free Press

MILFORD – The closing of Milford Catholic Elementary School will bring to an end 137 years of Catholic schools in Milford.
Milford Catholic Elementary will close for the 2017-2018 year, Michael Walsh, chairman of the school board, said in a letter to parents and friends of the school Tuesday.
The decision to close was made “after our recommendation and consultation with Bishop McManus,” he wrote.
He said the effort to raise funds to support the school has “fallen far short of our $300,000 projected needs. Despite the difficult challenge of raising this amount of money in a very short amount of time, the parents and friends of MCES were able to raise approximately $27,000 (from 57 donors). Enrollment was decreased by one part-time student.”
“We are extremely disappointed that despite these heroic efforts we have not been able to enroll a significant number of new students or raise the necessary capital needed to support the basic operations of the school moving forward,” Mr. Walsh wrote. “Given our financial situation, we have no choice but to follow through on the April school board decision to close Milford Catholic Elementary School at the end of this school year.”
The school board had voted in April to close the school, citing declining enrollments but gave supporters a chance to try to save the school.
The board told about 75 parents and alumni that the number of students must be increased to 107, from the 57 full-time and 10 part-time students still enrolled, and fund-raising must continue.
The school has served children from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. It has operated for the last 42 years. Its enrollment has been declining since 2001-02, according to a press release. Information from the Catholic Schools Office showed an enrollment of 241 students in 2006-07 dropped to 89 in 2016-17.
Marie Sciretta, principal, said the school has 12 full and part-time teachers, four aides, a nurse, a secretary and a bookkeeper in addition to herself.
Miss Sciretta said she began teaching at Sacred Heart School and moved to MCES when it was formed when Sacred Heart and St. Mary of the Assumption parish schools were merged. She said she taught for 39 years and has been principal for four years.
She said she expects that the teachers at MCES will be looking to continue teaching at other schools.
“They are wonderful teachers who want to teach,” she said.
Delma L. Josephson, diocesan superintendent of schools, called it “such a wonderful school!”
“Some of the academic scores that came out of there are number one in the diocese” – in a number of content areas, Superintendent Josephson said. “Spiritually it’s a wonderful school. But it’s a school that’s been on a decline for a number of years, as far as enrollment.”
She said she thinks location is one reason, because there are many good public schools in the area.
And since it goes only to grade 6, students have to find another school after Milford Catholic, before going in to a high school. So, she said, some might leave Milford Catholic before grade 6 to get into another school system.
She said students wanting to attend a public school outside the district where they live need to apply early, since public schools don’t have to take such students.
Superintendent Josephsons said that, depending on circumstances, administrators, teachers and staff of Catholic schools that close can get 50 percent of their average weekly salary or wage, for 20 weeks, from the transition assistance plan, the diocese’s version of unemployment insurance.
She said they can continue their group health benefits plan through COBRA, (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) a government program. However, qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage, according to the US Department of Labor.
In his letter, Mr. Walsh said the board wants “to thank all of you who have supported the school over the years and worked so diligently on the school’s behalf. We would also like to extend our sincere appreciation to the faculty and staff of Milford Catholic Elementary School for their steadfast commitment to providing a vibrant Catholic educational experience for our students.
“We are grateful for the wonderful memories that remind us of the many years that Milford Catholic Elementary School has successfully served our community. Please join us in keeping our students, teachers, staff, families and alumni of Milford Catholic Elementary School in your prayers.”
Tuesday night the school board held a meeting to address parents’ questions. About a dozen parents joined them and the superintendent, principal and school staff members in the Bell Tower Room adjacent to the school.
Father Raymond M. Goodwin Jr., pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, opened with prayer. Stigmatine Father Richard A. Scioli, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, closed with the “Glory Be.”
“It’s a sad day, but we’ll get through it,” said Mr. Walsh.
One parent asked when she would get back tuition money she had paid for next year, because she has another school to pay. She was told the money would be returned in the order in which it was sent in.
Another parent, Irene Morphis, told the board members and principal she was not in the frame of mind to talk to them, so she would address the parents. Facing the parents, she told them they came together and worked hard to raise money to keep the school open and she was proud to be part of that.
“I just wanted to see you one last time,” she said.
Listeners on both sides applauded.
With no one else raising questions or concerns, the meeting closed, but parents stayed to talk to The Catholic Free Press.
Mrs. Morphis said that the closing is a great loss, but the families can move on and support the community and Catholic education in other ways.
Asked about her decision not to address the board at the meeting, she said: “Right now my emotions are high. I felt that as parents we weren’t supported and the school wasn’t supported.”
In the past two or three years parents and teachers presented ideas for raising money and increasing enrollment and were met with resistance, she said.
School families, always tightly knit, became closer, she said, and now they look forward to supporting each other for any family needs.
“Something great came out of it,” she said. “We have to remain positive.”
“I just think that the board has worked very, very hard many, many years,” said Mary Jo Gulino, a board member and parent of a former student. All the board members except the priests and principal had children in the school, she said, and some have been on the board for decades.
“I’m very disappointed that the school is closing,” said Beth Crevier. “I’ve been here 25 years. I have 10 children and they all went here.” All graduated except the 10th, who just finished fourth grade.
“The school did a remarkable job of keeping everything running smoothly,” she said. “It didn’t seem like we were closing. All the faculty were very cheerful.”
“I feel so sad because we’re going to lose the wonderful school,” said Simone Miller, one of the mothers. She said teachers were good and the principal worried about the students and worked hard to support the school.
“The special thing is the faith the children learn and they’re going to keep that forever.”
She said her son will go to Our Lady of the Valley Elementary in Uxbridge, but she wished he could stay here, close to home.
“Milford Catholic’s been open for 42 years,” said board member Annette Smith, whose adult children had gone there. “A lot of students have received solid Catholic education and that’s our legacy….
“They have a sense of responsibility to their community and I think that seed was planted here in their Catholic education.… I feel even though the school is closed, those students will carry on the message and spirit of the school. Right now it’s like a death and the stages of grief are there.”

–Tanya Connor contributed to this report.