Newsday (Melville, NY)
February 5, 1998
Dominican High to Close
/ Enrollment drop blamed
Faced with decreasing enrollment, the Sisters of St. Dominic have announced that they will close Dominican Commercial High School in Jamaica in June.
Sister Mary Hughes, prioress of the Dominican Sisters in Amityville, said the private, parochial school on 89th Avenue had been grappling with declining enrollment and budget constraints for the past 20 years. The student population peaked at almost 1,600 students in the 1970s but dropped to 585 students by 1990. Hughes said the current enrollment is 270 students.
The faculty and students were notified last week that the school would close.
"It was a very painful decision that we had to make," Hughes said. "But the current enrollment has made it impossible to sustain our original mission, and we decided that if we can't meet the high standards of education we had set for our school, it was time to close."
Bishop Thomas Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn said he accepted the order's decision.
"I know that the sisters [of St. Dominic] reached this conclusion only after undergoing a detailed, painstaking process to determine whether they could continue the school's worthy educational mission," he said. "I extend my concern for the well-being of the Dominican community, faculty, students and their families."
When Dominican Commercial High School opened in September, 1936, the school was housed in the former Shaw-Bernardi mansion at 89-15 161st St., where the quarters served as classrooms for the 67 students and a home for the sisters. Dominican quickly expanded and in 1942, it moved to its current building at 161-06 89th Avenue.
From the beginning, the Dominican sisters maintained their goal would be to provide quality academic and business training. The school currently offers three concentrations: business, academic or a combination of the two studies. Tuition is about $4,000 a year.
The Sisters of St. Dominic have poured more than $2.5 million into the school in attempt to save it, Hughes said. In 1996, a comprehensive revitalization program began and an evaluation company was hired for ideas on how the school could update its image.
Hughes said the students are currently meeting with counselors and applying to public schools and to 21 Catholic high schools in Brooklyn and Queens. Counselors are also meeting with students interested in transferring to public high schools in the area. "There is a grieving process," Hughes said. "I think it's just beginning."
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