Catholic school to close doors after six decades
The latest religious school set to close is Hicksville’s Our Lady of Mercy (OLM), a Catholic K-8 school which the Diocese of Rockville Center announced would be shutting its doors at the conclusion of the current 2019-20 school year. According to a statement from the diocese, “…the drop in enrollment and the decline in tuition income makes the goal of providing a quality education to nurture and develop students academically, emotionally and spiritually unsustainable.”
Located at 520 S. Oyster Bay Road, OLM was established by the Sisters of Mercy nearly 60 years ago. Not unlike many other Catholic educational institutions, the number of students attending has seen a precipitous decline. From the 2012-13 to the 2019-20 school year, enrollment has decreased 72 percent from 368 to 104 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. As income from tuition and fundraising has taken a downturn, parish and diocesan contributions have spiked considerably.
“From the 2012-13 through the 2019-20 school year, the parish provided a total of $2.36 million in operating support and the Diocese of Rockville Centre provided almost $500,000 in additional core contribution,” the diocese said in a statement. “The parish subsidy for the 2018-19 school year was 52 percent of total parish collections. In the current 2019-20 school year, the parish anticipates providing at least $400,000 in operating subsidy and the diocese is expected to provide approximately $200,000 in core contribution.” According to the diocese, students from Our Lady of Mercy will be welcomed into any Catholic elementary school in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. There are a number of neighboring parish Catholic elementary schools that are prepared to welcome Our Lady of Mercy students into their communities including Holy Family School in Hicksville, St. Edward the Confessor School in Syosset, and St. Patrick’s School in Huntington.
For Tracy Ferrero Yurukov, OLM was a family affair. An older sister graduated in 1987 from the school while Ferrero Yurokov started there in pre-kindergarten in 1983, graduating from eighth grade in 1994. Her daughter began attending Mercy in 2011 in nursery school and is currently in the sixth grade. The Hicksville native is quick to point out the impact the school had and continues to have on her life.
“OLM has had such an incredible impact on my life, from the stellar education I received to the faith-based moral foundation I was afforded. My Mercy family has gotten me through tough times and provided me with life-long friendships,” she said. “I learned the spirit of giving back and giving of yourself to those in need from Mercy. It is my home away from home.
The closing of OLM was quite the shock to the system for this alumnus who has continued her affiliation with the school as a member of the youth council in addition to serving as the baton twirling director and girls volleyball coach. She took to Facebook to solicit alumni, former staff or anyone who may have been in an event or on a team there to send her pictures, videos and shots of their yearbooks in the hope of creating a video anthology of the school before its doors close in June. But in the meantime, her association with the school will be running through the end of the academic year.
“My husband and I have served as chairs for many school fundraisers (the candy sale, breakfast with Santa, and international night). I have also been a committee member of our Circle of Mercy gala, Christmas fair and a moderator of the school’s media club. I am also the social media coordinator for the school. In 2015, I became a member of the staff as a teacher’s assistant for pre-k,” she said.
While the future of current students has been addressed, questions abound as to the causes behind declining enrollment, what will happen to the OLM faculty and what is planned for the future of the actual property. The Diocese of Rockville Centre provided no response when a request was made for comment.