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Kids 'Devastated' by Plan to Close Catholic School After More Than 50 Years

 Most Precious Blood School at 32-52 37th St. in Astoria.
Most Precious Blood School at 32-52 37th St. in Astoria.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — A Queens Catholic school that's been in the neighborhood for more than 50 years will close its doors in June, officials said in a recent announcement that left parents stunned and kids so devastated that one said she would use money from her piggy bank to help save it.

Most Precious Blood School, at 32-52 37th St., will shutter at the end of the school year, according to officials, who blamed the closure on declining enrollment and millions of dollars in repairs needed at the building and neighboring church.

"This is a particularly painful decision that affects all of us," the church's pastor, Rev. William Krlis, said in a letter posted on the school's website.

Parents said they were shocked to learn the news.

"If you knew that you were possibly having to close the school, where was the fundraisers for the school, where was the chance for everybody to raise money that was needed?" said Jennifer Masterson, who has a son and a daughter at Most Precious Blood.

"They're both pretty devastated," she said of her children.

Noreen Hayes said her daughter, Megan, a third-grader at the school, "was up half the night in tears."

"She said she was going to break into her piggy bank and give the money to the school," Hayes said. "It's heartbreaking."

A meeting will be held in the school auditorium on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the closure. A petition to keep the school open earned more than 2,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

Officials said the school building needs $2.55 million in repairs, while the church next door — where a wall has begun to separate — needs another $3 million in fixes.

"While financially we have not run deficits, these essential building repairs, combined with declining enrollment, will not allow us to continue," Krlis said in a letter on the school's website.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn said the school is in need of a new roof, boiler and masonry work, as well as new windows and doors, which she said haven't been replaced since the school opened in 1957.

But parents say the school building, while in need of some repairs, is in functional shape compared to the church building next door.

"The church is actually in more dire need of repairs — they have walls falling," said mom Lissette Paz. "He is really sacrificing our students for the benefits of this failing church."

Parents also took aim at the idea that enrollment is down at Most Precious Blood.

The school says enrollment this year is at 191 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, down 20 from last year. But Barbara Coogan, head of a parents association at the school, said that number doesn't count nursery and pre-K students, which would bring total enrollment up to 315 students.

"For the last five years, it's been steady between 315 and 325," she said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said it looks at enrollment numbers for kindergarten through eighth grade when considering the stability and viability of its schools. The trend for the last five years at Most Precious Blood has seen less than 40 percent of its pre-K and nursery school students stay on for kindergarten, according to a spokeswoman.

She said in 2008, there were 303 students enrolled in kindergarten through eigth grade at the school, compared to the 191 in those grades now.

The spokeswoman said they will look to rent out the school space as soon as possible in order to fund the repairs needed at the buildings. Catholic schools in neighboring parishes will be able to offer seats for Most Precious Blood students, officials said.

But parents say they're losing more than just a building.

"My husband went to this school, we have roots in this school. We stayed in Astoria because we knew we wanted to be here," said Paz, whose two sons have been at Most Precious Blood for the past three years.

"It's not one of those failing school-type stories," she said. "This is a great school that's thriving and he's taking it away."