Citing declining enrollment, Diocese of Bridgeport officials said this week that St. Aloysius School—a New Canaan institution that has educated generations of local youth for more than six decades, including classmates Steve Benko and Rick Franco—will not reopen in the fall.
The Catholic school has been displaced temporarily to a Stamford campus this academic year as St. A’s prepares to build a new 26,000-square-foot “Education and Faith Center”—a plan that remains in place (see below).
Yet in a March 28 letter to the school community (printed in full below), Diocese Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Cheeseman noted that enrollment has declined by 40% over the past five years.
“In fact, as of today, only 22 students have been fully re-enrolled or registered for next year with an additional 43 having started the process,” he said in the letter. “While I am grateful for those parents who have chosen to re-enroll/register and for the recent efforts to raise funds in the hopes that the school could remain open, the simple fact remains that there are not enough students to provide a high quality Catholic education.”
He added, “Recognizing the pain and sadness this decision may cause, we will do all we can to facilitate a transfer into one of the other Catholic schools in the diocese. In the coming days, Mr. Fielding will follow up with information regarding school open houses and shadow day opportunities and below you will find the contact information for the enrollment coordinators at area Catholic schools.”
Cheeseman referred to Adam Fielding, principal of St. Aloysius School (a recent podcast guest on 0684-Radi0).
The application for the building project is before the Planning & Zoning Commission. During this week’s P&Z meeting, attorney Amy Zabetakis of Rucci Law Group, representing St. Aloysius Church, noted that while the church owns the buildings on its campus, the school itself has always been operated by the diocese, a completely separate entity.
Addressing P&Z hours after Cheeseman’s letter went out, Zabetakis told the Commission on Tuesday, “The plans which have been submitted you are being submitted by St. Aloysius Church. The church is the one that needs these buildings. Predominantly, they need the building for their after-school religious education. They need a minimum of 13 classrooms for the after-school and religious education program. They also have been in discussions—and I believe I brought this up during one of our preliminary hearings—that they would like to have a preschool program on the property. So, nothing is changing as far as what we are applying for. However, this is now areligious education building as opposed to a school that is being run separately by the diocese.”
In a letter posted to the church’s website, the Rev. Rob Kinnally assured the parish that “St. Aloysius students and faculty will find a place in nearby Catholic Schools, and that the Religious Education of our children and families remains a priority in the parish.”
“Our new building, when it is completed in Fall 2024, will house our Religious Education program which now serves 825 young people and is expected to serve over 1,000 in just a couple of years,” Kinnally said in the letter. “And we are hopeful about adding a Pre-K program to meet a growing need in the community.”
He asked that “all remain hopeful.”
“St. Aloysius is a dynamic, faithful, and generous parish that continually finds new ways to live the Gospel and share the Good News with others,” Kinnally said in the letter. “Likewise, the diocese remains committed to sustaining and growing Catholic education. Together we can joyfully pass on our faith to the next generation as we continually re-imagine ways to engage and accompany our families and the larger community in their journey with God and one another.”
Below is the text of Diocese of Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman’s March 28, 2023 letter.
“Dear Parents and Friends of the St. Aloysius Catholic School Community,
“Five years ago Bishop Caggiano met with parish and school leadership to express his concern over the decline in enrollment and the instability that decline was creating. He asked the community to discuss viable school models that would better engage the families of New Canaan and best serve the needs of the young people of the parish. Since that time, much has been done by the school community in an attempt to increase enrollment. Sadly, even with those best efforts, enrollment continues to decline (40% over 5 years). In fact, as of today, only 22 students have been fully re-enrolled or registered for next year with an additional 43 having started the process. While I am grateful for those parents who have chosen to re-enroll/register and for the recent efforts to raise funds in the hopes that the school could remain open, the simple fact remains that there are not enough students to provide a high quality Catholic education.
“Therefore, on behalf of Bishop Caggiano, I write today with tremendous regret to inform you that St. Aloysius Catholic School will not reopen in the Fall.
“Recognizing the pain and sadness this decision may cause, we will do all we can to facilitate a transfer into one of the other Catholic schools in the diocese. In the coming days, Mr. Fielding will follow up with information regarding school open houses and shadow day opportunities and below you will find the contact information for the enrollment coordinators at area Catholic schools.
“Allow me to express my thanks to members of the school advisory board, the administration, the faculty and staff, Fr. David Roman and Msgr. Robert Kinnally for all their efforts to support the school. They, along with the many involved parents of the HSA, represent the good will, generosity and dedication of many people in our community. I am grateful for their commitment.
“As always, I entrust the coming months to the loving protection of Mary, the Mother of God. May She provide the St. Aloysius community with consolation, strength and perseverance.
“Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Bridgeport”
There is still time for the exploration of a St. Aloysius School that could be run privately, and not by the Diocese of Bridgeport. As part of the fundraising campaign for the new $25 million (or thereabouts) St. Aloysius “campus”, the Diocese pocketed the first 10% of all funds raised from parishioners – part of the agreement for the elaborate plan to build a new St. Aloysius School amongst other new buildings. Let’s quickly find a way to include Pre-K through 4th Grade at the new, privately run St. Aloysius School. One additional Grade can be added each year until the School is Pre-K through 8th Grade. The marketing logo for the new St. Aloysius construction projects reads “A New Reimagined Campus”. St. Aloysius is an outstanding community, with the greatest leaders in Msgr. Rob Kinnally and Fr. David Roman. I have been actively involved with my church community for over a dozen years with my personal highlight as narrator of the annual Living Nativity on the Friday evening of New Canaan’s Holiday Stroll. It’s a beautiful event, right in front of the St. Aloysius School, every year. I am confident that we can all apply our “new, reimagined” brilliant ideas to help build this new “campus”. Peace.
Thank you so much John for laying this out. You speak the minds of so many of us parents who worked SO HARD to come up with a way to help our beautiful little school succeed and continue. I can say with certainty that we were on board with this plan and sadly the diocese didn’t even give us a chance to present our ideas before sending that closure letter. If parishioners such as yourself can join forces with us perhaps we have a fighting chance. We would do ANYTHING to save our school.
Thank you, Cristina.
I wish you all the best in saving this Catholic school.
Classical Catholic liberal education is a model you might want to consider. St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD worked with the Archdiocese of DC to save their K-8 school from closure in 2009. It has been so successful that they built up a classical high school in DC, St. Jerome Institute, for academy graduates to continue their Catholic education.
You might want to contact people at ICLE for information. https://catholicliberaleducation.org/2018/07/11/the-education-plan-for-saint-jerome-academy/
Even if you can just work out an agreement to use the new facilities, that would be great. Praying for you!
Also, https://www.cltexam.com/ if you are curious about outcomes in classical learning.
Thank you, Joanne.