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St. Virgilius School gets five more years

St. Virgilius, at 16 Noel Road, was one of nine parochial schools in Queens pegged for closure by the diocese, which cited declining enrollment and changing demographics.The Broad Channel school fought the planning closing and was given the opportunity to submit a five-year business plan to the diocese, which was approved last Wednesday before Easter break. The plan ensures that the school will stay open for the next five years."I'm very happy that they did (keep the school open). That school was very unique," said Judy Strelnick, a parent of three children who attend the school. She said the small class sizes and the school's curriculum make the school special and should boost future enrollment. In her son's class, for example, the student-teacher ratio is 10-to-1.The diocese could not be reached for comment.Included in the business plan are enrollment incentives; a provision to provide computers and interactive teaching for students; bus transportation for students who live outside the community; universal pre-kindergarten; and an after-school program with the YMCA, according to John Spataro, chairman of the school's business plan committee.Enrollment incentives are to come in the form of special scholarships given to prospective kindergarten through eighth-grade students who live outside the community and would "not normally choose a Catholic education," Spataro said. There would also be separate scholarships given to prospective second- through eighth-graders who live in Broad Channel.Other sources to generate revenue and enrollment - including holding a YMCA summer camp at the school and the pursuit of grants for arts and humanities programs at St. Virgilius - are also being discussed, Spataro said.He credited alumni in the community with helping the school, which has been open for more than 75 years, noting that Broad Channel is a multi-generational community and there are some families whose history as students at the school go back "five or six generations."City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), cited increasing tuition and improvement of public schools in some districts as undermining Catholic schools' ability to enroll new students.Spataro said the "black cloud" that had been cast over St. Virgilius for years about threats of closure made it difficult to bring in more pupils."This cloud has now been disposed of with the acceptance of the business plan," he said.Eight schools in Queens are still in danger of being closed. They are: St. Theresa's School at 50-15 44th St. in Woodside; Queen of Angels School at 41-12 44th St. in Sunnyside; Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians School at 70-31 48th Ave. in Winfield; Ascension School at 86-37 53rd Ave. in Elmhurst; Our Lady of Mount Carmel School at 23-15 Newton Ave. in Astoria; Holy Cross School at 56-01 61st St. in Maspeth; St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr School at 90-01 101st Ave. in Ozone Park; and St. Pius X School at 147-65 249th St. in Rosedale.Kathryn Prael, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), said the congressman is trying to double the federal child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 in hopes of preventing the closings. He also plans to reach out to philanthropists who donated to city public schools.

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