By Katherine Long
In a letter to the Rome Catholic School community released May 1, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced that “the 7-12 school at [Rome Catholic School] will cease operations at the end of this school year.” Rome Catholic’s pre-kindergarten through sixth grade program will continue and, along with Notre Dame Elementary School in Utica and St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Oneida, feed into one eastern region 7-12 program, located at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School in Utica.
The decision came after a three-year effort to reverse declining high school enrollment numbers at Rome Catholic. “Over the past three years, we’ve been working closely with the administration [at Rome Catholic] on high school enrollment,” said diocesan Superintendent Christopher Mominey in a May 2 interview with the Sun. A series of business and strategic plans were put in place, he said, but despite “the people of Rome working consistently and passionately,” enrollment benchmarks were not met.
The goal, Mominey said, was to have 108 students enrolled at the high school level. There are 68 students, including 11 graduating seniors, currently enrolled in grades 7 to 12, according to data from the Catholic Schools Office.
While there is value in small class sizes, Mominey said, such low numbers led to serious concerns about educational soundness and financial sustainability and, ultimately, to the decision to reconfigure Rome Catholic as a pre-K through 6 school.
Acknowledging that “it’s a sad day in regards to the 7-12 program of Rome Catholic,” Mominey said, “the demographics all point to the most sustainable model [being] three elementary schools and one single, strong junior-senior high school in the region.”
The Catholic Schools Office will offer $1,000 transition scholarships, along with transportation, to Rome Catholic students currently in grades 6 to 11 who continue their Catholic education at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School next year. Rome Catholic students will also have opportunities to visit Notre Dame in the coming months.
The diocese is also looking to “reinvest in the [Rome Catholic] elementary school and build programs that already exist, upgrade facilities where we can and grow the early childhood education program there,” Mominey said. Mominey also said he will meet with Rome Catholic’s high school level teachers in the next few weeks to discuss any employment opportunities within the diocese.