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Holy Angels Regional Spared From Catholic School Closings

Patchogue school may absorb some students from the closing Prince of Peace Regional School next year.

Patchogue's  could see an influx of students next year as the closing of six other Long Island Catholic elementary schools sends parents scrambling to enroll their children in new schools.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced Tuesday that it would close six of its 53 elementary schools on Long Island at the end of the 2011-12 school year due to declining enrollment. Among to close–Sayville's Prince of Peace Regional School. 

The other schools to close on the island are St. John Baptist de La Salle Regional School (Farmingdale), St. Catherine of Sienna School (Franklin Square), St. Ignatius Loyola School (Hicksville), Sacred Heart School (North Merrick) and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Lindenhurst).

Holy Angels Principal Michele Mulderrig could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but she posted a note on the school's website alerting parents that the school was not among those to close. 

"I am pleased to report that Holy Angels Regional School will remain open and will be a critical component of Catholic education on Long Island as we move forward," Mulderrig wrote. "It is also with sadness that I share with you that six schools will close in June 2012. Our prayers are with our colleagues, friends and families who have much history and fond memories of those fine schools."

Holy Angels, which was founded in 1923 as St. Francis deSales Catholic School and established as a regional school in January 1977, serves students in grades K-8. 

Liz and Chris McGuire, of Patchogue, have a son who is currently in the third grade at Holy Angels. In an email, Liz McGuire said their son John "absolutely loves it there."

"We are very relieved the school is not in jeopardy, but deeply sympathize with the parents of the children in the six affected schools," McGuire said. "They must be devastated. I am sure that Holy Angels and the other regional Catholic shools will welcome those students with open arms, and as parents, we will do the same."

The decision to close the six schools was arrived at for various reasons, including what Diocese of Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy described as "changing demographics and difficult national and local economic conditions."

"Given the decline in school-age population and the economic climate on Long Island we, like many public school districts, must face the harsh reality that we no longer need as many school buildings as we may have had in the past," Murphy said. 

Enrollment at Long Island's Catholic elementary schools has been on the decline since 1999, although Catholic high schools continue to add to their ranks, according to diocese officials. 

Enrollment at Sayville's Prince of Peace dropped 24 percent from 179 students in 2000-01 to 136 students this school year. The decline was even more precipitous at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, which enrollment fall from 515 in 2000-01 to just 156 students this year–a 70 percent decrease.

Diocese officials did not provide figures on Holy Angels, but according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, the school had 330 students during the 2009-10 school year. 

A few parents Patch spoke with at Prince of Peace Wednesday mentioned Holy Angels as an option for their children next year, although many were still in shock by the decision to close the school and to fight to keep it open. 

In a letter sent to parents of schools that are not closing, Murphy said he expected the remaining 47 Catholic elementary schools on the island to absorb new students from the closing schools. 

"Please be assured that we will do our very best to make the transition as smooth and positive as possible for the families and children impacted by today’s decisions," Murphy wrote. "We know that your school community will welcome these children and families into your schools."

Michael Sorrentino contributed to this article.

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