For the past two weeks, students from Saint Augustine School (SAS) in New City, have rallied to keep their school from being shuttered at the end of the school year in June. Shortly after students heard the news on November 26that their 53-year-old school had been placed on the list of more than 26 schools labeled “at risk” by the Archdiocese of New York, their mood switched from sadness to activism.
“This is a very difficult and unsettling time for the children,” said Bethann Rooney, president of the Home School Association and chair of the Step Up For SAS campaign. “It is important for them to be involved with saving their school.”
Students have been helping with the “Step Up For SAS” campaign and stuffed envelopes with letters to more than 1,600 alumni, visited almost 150 merchants, vendors and businesses along Main Street in New City and appealed to the 3,000 parish member families at St. Augustine Church. Prior to approaching donors, the school established an attorney escrow account and filed with New York State to create a non-profit foundation (501c3), Friends of Saint Augustine School.
“The alumni letters only went in the mail on Wednesday,” said Rooney on Sunday. “In just a few short days we received $107,000 in pledges. We are now under taking a full court press with donors and potential benefactors including celebrities, foundations, etc.”
Noting the amount of activity that had taken place during the first full week of the campaign, Rooney sounded optimistic about the outcome.
“We have a short steep climb ahead of us in the next few weeks but we are positioning ourselves well to reach the apex,” she said.
One student shared her feelings about the school with parishioners on Sunday.
Seventh grader Samantha Pisano said “SAS is more than just a school. It is truly a family. From the moment you walk into SAS you get the feeling that we are one big family bounded by faith. I have made friendships here that will last a lifetime and I would do anything to keep it open.”
“Step Up For SAS” Committee member Theresa Fiore has one son currently in the school and another who graduated in June.
“It is heart-warming to see the children working so hard to save their school,” said Fiore, adding they are following the school motto. “They are working together with Faith as a Family to ensure a bright Future for themselves and their friends.”
St. Augustine students are involved in the campaign in other ways. They celebrate a weekly “spirit day,” offer special prayers daily and received rally bands. For the seventh year, students will participate in lighting the Nativity Creche at the Rockland County Office Building on New Hempstead on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. They likely will all be making the same wish for their school to remain open.
St. Peter Parish School in Haverstraw is also on the list. St. Augustine and the other schools have until January 3, 2013 to submit an alternative proposal to the Archdiocese. St. Augustine's response must show improved financial status that no longer requires any aid from its parish to operate or significantly reduces that amount.