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As parents and teachers across the borough mounted an 11th-hour effort to save schools that have served generations of families, Borough President Helen Marshall told a Queens Chamber of Commerce meeting that she had been in talks for two months to acquire seats from the beleaguered diocese for the county's crowded public schools. It is estimated that Queens schools would need an additional 23,000 seats to accommodate all students."We just want to know what more we could have done to help ourselves," said Maureen Wallace, who has been a pre-kindergarten teacher at the St. Teresa's School in Woodside for 28 years. The school, which was founded in 1926, is slated to close. About 100 teachers in the nine parochial schools on the borough's shuttered list could be left without jobs and more than 1,300 students must scramble for seats in neighboring parish or public schools if the last-ditch efforts to rescue the schools fail.U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) plans to host a summit Saturday to drum up alternative funding to keep at least some of the schools open, but diocese officials said a drop in enrollment of 777 student in the nine schools on the chopping block, changing demographics and rising costs make a reprieve unlikely."It's very difficult, but it's something that had to be addressed for a long time," said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the diocese. "There were no overnight decisions." Nine borough schools and 17 others in Brooklyn are scheduled to close. The Queens schools are: St. Teresa'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 Newtown 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; St. Virgilius School at 16 Noel Rd. in Broad Channel; and St. Pius X School at 147-65 249th St. in Rosedale.Despite assurances from the diocese that the decisions to close the schools were final, parents and alumni at several schools including St. Teresa's, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Virgilius vowed to fight to keep their schools open during at times contentious meetings with administrators and parish officials. Catholic school parents said they would be upset to see their children displaced. "I'm going to break down in tears every time I walk by," said Bruce Trostl, 42, a Sunnyside construction worker with three children in St. Teresa's, which already leases six classrooms to PS 199.Students at the schools in Woodside, Sunnyside, Winfield, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Ozone Park will be absorbed by neighboring parishes, said Michael J. Hardiman, vicar for education in the diocese. The other three schools in Astoria, Broad Channel and Rosedale, are closing without giving its students a specific option."I was crying when I came into school the next day. Mostly everybody was crying," said Jonathan Cara, 10, a fifth-grader at Astoria's Our Lady of Mount Carmel School who sported a "Save Our Schools" T-shirt. The TimesLedger staff contributed to this report.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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