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Holy Cross Families Beg for Help to Defeat School Merger

By DNAinfo Staff on February 16, 2011 2:51pm

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HELL'S KITCHEN — With no solution in sight to a merger that many equate to a closure, a huge crowd of Holy Cross School parents and students gathered Tuesday night to ask for help, in any form possible, from Community Board 4.

"We've done everything we can, and we're running into a brick wall," said Kim Miller, whose fifth-grade daughter attends the school., located at 332 W. 43rd St. "But there has to be an answer."

Last month, the Archdiocese of New York announced that next fall, Holy Cross will leave its building, longtime principal and many teachers behind to merge with the Sacred Heart of Jesus School, nine blocks to the North at 456 W. 52nd St.

The move stunned Holy Cross parents because, unlike Sacred Heart, the school was never a part of the Archdiocese's list of "at-risk" schools, released in November.

So Tuesday, at a school where enrollment totals just around 200, approximately 200 parents and students crowded the Holy Cross parish's 42nd St. basement for the meeting with CB4's quality of life committee. They came because calls and visits to the Archdiocese, Facebook campaigns and media coverage have yet to yield any change.

But the bad news for parents is that CB4's formal power in the matter is slight. CB4 Vice Chair Corey Johnson repeatedly that the Board bears no control of the Archdiocese, and can only advocate and help to "amplify your voices."

The Archdiocese has said that merging the two schools is the only way to keep both of them intact.

Board members, however, sharply criticized the merger, decrying the loss of the over 100-year-old institution near Times Square.

"It's really shocking — I think we are losing an incredibly valuable resource for a very bad tradeoff," said second vice chair Christine Berthet. "[Holy Cross] has 200 satisfied parents. Where have you seen that?"

Many Holy Cross parents said they won't send their kids to the newly merged school. Chief concerns include a belief that the education at their school, where graduating eighth grader seniors have so far earned around $250,000 in scholarships, is superior to Sacred Heart's.

Holy Cross also sits on prime real estate, on the block adjacent to Port Authority. Parents said Sacred Heart's distance from major transportation hubs, as well as its lack of play space, makes it an undesirable choice.

Board members and parents also pointed out that the loss of seats at Holy Cross won't help a neighborhood where school space is already scarce. The area lacks a middle school, and overcrowding is rife at soon-to-be rebuilt PS 51.

Before voting unanimously to send letters to the Archdiocese and elected officials, board members also urged parents to make their cases to elected officials such as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and State Senator Tom Duane.

"You have got to hound your elected officials," said member Paul Seres. "It's important that you be as organized as possible, so that the people across that table take you seriously."

Quinn, Gottfried and Duane did not return requests for comment by press time.

Archdiocese Superintendent Timothy McNiff will meet with parents and Holy Cross's parish priest in the coming weeks, according to Fran Davies, the Archdiocese's associate superintendent for communications and marketing. The Archdiocese is also setting up a joint parents advisory committee with Sacred Heart.