NAUGATUCK, Conn. (WTNH) — There was a different kind of traffic “jam” in downtown Naugatuck Friday. On the corner of Church and Cedar Streets, you could hear a lot of screams, cheers and honks from car horns.
Parents and students rallied with their signs, encouraging passing drivers to honk in support of their efforts to keep a Catholic school there open — the St. Francis-St. Hedwig School.
Original Story: Mom rallying community to save Naugatuck Catholic school
“This school’s been around for over 150 years and for it to just even have the rumor of it not being around anymore is a shame in and of itself,” said Joseph Mobilio — a basketball coach at the school and the parent of a 6 year-old student there.
Rumors of the school possibly being in danger of closing popped up because of declining enrollment and debt issues. The Archdiocese of Hartford says the school debt could be as high as $300,000. Enrollment stands at 151 students. A more comfortable number would be 180 students.
Today’s rally is to show the Archdiocese how much support there is for this school in this community. Fliers are plastered throughout downtown Naugatuck — and one mother started a movement on social media — an online petition to save St. Francis-St. Hedwig. Nearly 3,000 people have signed it so far. Jennifer Wilmot is the parent who started this petition. She says the number of signatures is “shocking”.
“I’m still absolutely shocked. It’s gone worldwide. We have signatures from Portugal, Brazil, Canada,” Jennifer said.
She says that shows how much the school is loved. She has 5 children who currently go there and another child who graduated last year. They are her motivation to keep Catholic education alive in Naugatuck.
“I’d like my children to be brought up in a faith-based education,” Jennifer said. “Learn the history of the religion — they do great things for the community.”
Naugatuck leaders have been meeting with officials at the Archdiocese to try and keep St. Francis-St. Hedwig open. News8 received this email from Dr. Michael Griffin, the Superintendent of Catholic schools:
“Local officials and members of the St. Francis-St. Hedwig Foundation, Inc. have offered to present their ideas regarding the long-term sustainability of St. Francis-St. Hedwig School. Once these ideas are reviewed, a final decision will be made.”
Parents are hopeful that generating public support for the school will show the archdiocese how much it is loved in the Naugatuck community. But, the Archdiocese is crunching the numbers and what they’re seeing doesn’t look good. They say in a parish-run school,tuition income is a significant factor impacting financial stability. And with the current enrollment at 151 students, they say that’s a loss of 102 students for the pre-K through 8 school, in the last six years.
That’s why an enrollment open house Saturday from noon-2pm is so important at the school. The community is hoping more new families will attend and want to enroll their children at St. Francis-St. Hedwig. That would be the first step in boosting crucial numbers there. The school is located at 294 Church Street in Naugatuck.
Parents at the rally have faith that their efforts will pay off and save what they consider to be an important institution in Naugatuck. Drivers who honked their horns in support, agree.
“My grandson goes to that school,” one driver said.
“It’s a really great school and I don’t want it to close,” his grandson said.