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Winfield parochial school raises funds to stay afloat

The school, officially known as Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians School at 70-31 48th Ave., is one of eight borough elementary schools with sagging enrollment that the Diocese of Brooklyn has decided to close next year. St. Virgilius in Broad Channel was initially slated for the ax but won another five years when the Diocese approved its business plan through 2010 two weeks ago. Parents and alumni at St. Mary's hope to save their school with a business plan they submitted earlier this week. "She is the first Catholic school in Queens," said Elizabeth Gleason, a school board member who has enrolled three children in St. Mary's. "I think it's a misjustice - let's put it that way - if the school is to close."Diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa failed to return calls for comment. When the Diocese announced the closures Feb. 9, St. Mary's parents and alumni immediately launched a fund-raising drive to close a $200,000 gap in the current year's operating budget. They held a flea market and petitioned local businesses and alumni. The kindergarten through eighth-grade school, which saw enrollment plummet by 58 students to 132 over five years , got an additional 30 children to commit for next year. "We really started hitting the pavement and telling people that we're here," said Carol Cavanagh, a member of the school's alumni association. "My hope is they give us the chance to (stay) open."The block party is from 2 p.m. to midnight and will take place in the school's courtyard, cafeteria and church parish room. There will be a barbecue, raffles and an auction. Seven bands are scheduled to play. Admission is $10 for children ages 4 to 13 and $20 for people over 14. Children under 3 get in free. "It's probably going to be a little bit for everybody," Cavanagh said. "There's going to be rides for the kids." A pancake breakfast was scheduled for Sunday.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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