Hell's Kitchen Catholic School Turns to Fundraising to Survive

By Mathew Katz on August 16, 2011 1:54pm 

Administrators and parents at the Holy Cross School, on West 43rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, say they need to raise $260,000 this year to keep the school going.
Administrators and parents at the Holy Cross School, on West 43rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, say they need to raise $260,000 this year to keep the school going.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

HELL'S KITCHEN — A Hell's Kitchen priest is adding a new item to his priestly vestments — a fundraising hat — in an effort to save his Catholic school.

Father Peter Colapietro, who oversees the Holy Cross Church and School on West 43rd Street, recently held a $125-a-plate fundraiser at Starr Boggs Restaurant in the Hamptons to raise money for Holy Cross School. The school has been trying to avoid a merger with Sacred Heart of Jesus School on West 52nd Street at the end of the upcoming school year as a result of decreased enrollment and a lack of funds at both schools.

Colapietro is hoping to raise $260,000 — roughly the amount of Holy Cross School's deficit last year  — before a merger goes into effect.

It will be a few days before the school knows how much was raised in the Hamptons, but Colapietro said he's been able to raise $30,000 so far. He's also been able to convince donors to establish scholarships for students facing trouble paying the school's tuition.

"We have to make ourselves more viable," Colapietro said. "As we get closer to viability, the diocese will give us more of the funds."

Part of that approach involves raising the school's tuition, which has long been affordable for parents of Pre-K through eighth grade students. This year's tuition will be $3,500 for the year — still below the $5,500 it costs the school to educate each child every year.

Colapietro explained that the school will try to ease the burden on parents by allowing them to split tuition payments over 12 months. Previously, they had to pay on a 10-month schedule.

The school's passionate group of parents says that higher tuition is worth it to keep Holy Cross going.

"I can make do with less in another area so my kids can go to this school," said Eva Leclercq, who has a son and daughter at Holy Cross. "The school is important to me — it's the future of my kids."

Leclercq and other parents have begun planning their own fund raising efforts over the summer to help Colapietro reach his substantial goal.

"This is new," Leclercq said. "Before, basically the school operated without fundraising. But the world has changed and we need to pitch in."

Parents have also produced a new promotional video for the school. Earlier this year, they waged a YouTube campaign that convinced the Archdiocese of New York to delay the merger, originally scheduled for September, for a year.

In addition to fundraising, Colapietro said that making the school more viable means showing the archdiocese that there's a demand for it. While many of the students come in from all over the city, he points to condo developments a few blocks away on 10th and 11th avenues as a sign that enrollment will go up over the coming years.

The school will have an opportunity to present a plan for long-term viability to the archdiocese in November.

"There's no magic dollar amount," said Fran Davies, the archdiocese's associate superintendent for communications and marketing. "A plan has to include both enrollment and long-term financial sustainability."

Still, Colapietro admits that the daunting task of raising $260,000 may be the best way to keep the school going.

"It’s a tremendous challenge," he said. "But it’s something that’s doable."

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