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Concern over future of Catholic schools in NYC after all-girls academy announces closure

Historic all-girls Catholic school closing Brooklyn campus after 170 years
Historic all-girls Catholic school closing Brooklyn campus after 170 years 01:53

NEW YORK -- There are mounting concerns over the future of some Catholic schools in New York City after an all-girls school in Brooklyn announced it is shutting down. 

Historic Visitation Academy announced it will not reopen in September, ending a nearly 170-year-old legacy. 

Rosalie Arlotta Friedland is an alumnus and her granddaughter is a current student. 

"The appropriate way would have been to handle that if they had committees that were really viable and followed a fiduciary obligation to keep the school open," she says. 

Nadia Mastromichalis has two daughters enrolled. Despite months of rumors, she says this came as a surprise. 

"We knew enrollment was an issue. I went to the school in September. I said, I will help you," she recalls. "Myself and two other mothers went door to door to nursery schools in the area, daycares in the area."

Parents like Gerard Britton, whose daughter Caroline is a 3rd grader, say they loved the quality of education. 

"I thought the teachers were underpaid, performed well above what they're paid. They were all uniformly good and dedicated," he says. 

Francesca Messina's daughter, who was already forced to transfer into Visitation after her previous school closed, now has to change schools again. 

"I think the Diocese has created a situation where a parent doesn't want to send their child to a Catholic school because they fear it will close," she says. 

"My office is working with Visitation to ensure that whatever comes next for the property is something that people want," explains Councilmember Justin Brennan, who represents the neighborhood. 

Parents say they were only told about the closure in February, leaving them very little time to figure out where to send their daughters to school for the next year.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn responded in a statement that reads: 

The Diocese of Brooklyn is truly saddened by the impending loss of the presence of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Brooklyn. There is a significant history to reflect on with great appreciation for their nearly 170-year commitment to the Catholic faith, the students, and the surrounding community.

They leave a great and powerful legacy in the many young women who have been educated on their grounds, and by their many prayerful acts.

As the Sisters of the Visitation begin the process of closing their convent, they must also end their sponsorship of Visitation Academy. The Diocese of Brooklyn remains committed to assisting all current students with a transition to a new school.

The Diocese also says middle school girls are offered a seat at a nearby Catholic school, and parents who need help for next year should contact the superintendent. 

Visitation Academy did not directly respond to a request for comment.

"If the school is a mission of the monastery, how do you abandon it?" Mastromichalis said.

Neighbors also wonder about the future of the sprawling 7.5-acre campus.

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