Volunteers working to save Saint Augustine School from closing in June are about halfway to their target fundraising goal. They have been raising money, urging people to write letters of support and organizing events since November 26 when the Archdiocese of New York announced that Saint Augustine was on a list of 26 elementary schools considered “at risk” of closure.
Bethann Rooney, who is leading the effort to keep the New City school open, said they are working to meet their objective, which is to have a solid plan to present to the Archdiocese’ Local Regional Board in one week, on Thursday, Jan. 3.
“We are truly challenged by the very short time period that we have to respond and the need to do it over the holidays when families are preoccupied and corporations have limited staff,” said Rooney on Wednesday. “It also doesn’t help that potential large donors (i.e. philanthropists and foundations) have committed their funds for 2012 and haven’t begun the process yet for 2013. Nonetheless, against all odds, we are making tremendous progress and believe that we will be successful when we present our alternate proposal to the Regional Board on January 3rd.”
Rooney said the “Step Up for SAS” campaign has received $598,000 in pledges and donations from school parents, faculty, parishioners and alumni along with some matching funds pledged by JP Morgan Chase and IBM.
Rooney said the amount the Archdiocese told the school it needs to raise is $1.2 million for a three-year period. That amount would cover the school’s operating costs that are not paid for by tuition fees. She noted that the school is not required to raise that total sum.
“This can be a combination of cost savings and new revenue generation so we do not need to have the full $1.2 million in pledges and donations,” she explained.
St. Augustine has available space to increase its student enrollment. It currently has 219 students and at its peak had 500 students attending classes. It could reclaim classrooms that have been used for other purposes and could overcome the lack of a separate gym and cafeteria by relocating the cafeteria to the church basement.
The school currently uses a multipurpose room in its building as a gym/cafeteria. Rooney said the church basement has a full kitchen and capacity for 600 people.
More than 75 letters in support of keeping the school open have been written and sent to the Archdiocese Superintendent of Schools Dr. Timothy McNiff and Archdiocese’ newspaper “Catholic New York.” All the students have also written an essay or letter or drawn a picture about what the school means to them.
Some children are doing even more. Rooney’s daughter sent an email to her relatives asking them to help.
Here is an excerpt.
“I’m sending a letter because all of you know my school is at risk. I love that school and want to graduate from there. I was wondering if you can all help me by donating 20 or 25 dollars to me as a Christmas present this year. That money would go to my school. Please help. This could be a Miracle on Main Street. Please.”
The fundraising outreach continues this weekend with a fundraiser in Nyack and next Thursday evening with a rally at the school.
The Saturday brunch at La Fontana begins at either 11:30 a.m. or 12 p.m. and lasts until 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per person with children under four free. JP Morgan Chase will match the amount of money raised at the brunch.
The pep rally is being held on the same day the school’s response has to be submitted to the Local Regional Board. Members of area Catholic high schools and local politicians have been invited along with St. Augustine students, parents, faculty and parishioners to the 7 p.m. event on Jan. 3 at the South Main Street school.