N.J. Public Schools Worry as Catholic Schools Close

Overburdened public schools are already coping with limited resources

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    Overburdened public schools are already coping with limited resources and now must deal with students from Catholic schools that are being shuttered.

    To hear that more Catholic schools are about to close shouldn't surprise anyone after years of declining enrollment, and now a recession.

    But in New Jersey, public schools are bracing for a double whammy.

    "We already have 42 incoming students" from St. Francis of Assisi, said Ridgefield Park Superintendent Dr. John Richardson, with more expected.

    That would be bad enough for his small, 2,200-student public school system to absorb.

    But state aid cuts next school year total $1.5 Million, and to deal with that, Ridgefield Park had to cut 6 positions, including 4 teachers.

    "We're going to have to purchase additional books, additional material and a whole sundry of other items," said a worried Dr. Richardson.

    For first grade teacher Lisa Davis,44, a ten year veteran who teaches at Lincoln Elementary school, that could mean another student, or even two or three more in her classroom that numbered 26 this past year.

    She said she would work through it.

    "Do the best that you can to make sure each child's needs are fulfilled," Davis said.

    Over at St. Francis, enrollment has dropped from 280 students in 1999 to an expected 150 or so next fall, if the school had remained open.

    "It's an economics thing," said Newark Archdiocese spokesman James Goodness, in explaining that in this recession, too many parents simply can't afford the tuition.

    But for rising 8th grader James Maglione, 13, "It's terrible. I'm losing all my friends--they're my family."

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