By Emily Drooby
On Jan. 13, St. Agnes Academic High School announced it will be closing at the end of this school year.
“It’s hard to process everything because I was looking forward to my senior year so much, we all were,” said Rose Troiano, a junior at the school.
Principal Susan Nicoletti explained that a decline in enrollment and financial pressure from the pandemic are to blame.
“Due to the fact that we were small to begin with, it really had a greater impact on us. Of course, the pandemic didn’t help,” she told Currents News. “There are tutions that have to be paid and parents who lost their job, and we do serve a community that is needy.”
At least 50 percent of their students rely on financial aid.
Earlier in 2020 alumni stepped up to help, raising $60,000 for tuition costs. The strong support is not surprising to Robin Loesch, who graduated from the all-girls school in 2008.
“During high school, St. Agnes meant the world to me,” she said.
Growing up, Robin was in foster care. She called the school a family she could always count on.
“The academics were just wonderful and I want every young woman to have the experience that my classmates and I had,” Robin said.
Within hours of the announced closure, she and other alumnae flocked to Facebook, asking what could be done to reverse the decision.
But the ongoing financial pressure was just too much on both the school and on the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville who own and operate the school.
Sister Peggy McVetty, OP, prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, wrote the “decision to end 112 years of excellent education had been most difficult.” The high school had been co-educational for 40 years before becoming an all-girls institution in 1949.
“The financial realities during the past several years have made it impossible to sustain the school,” the letter continued. “The unprecedented economic projections and ramifications of the pandemic have only complicated the previously existing difficulties.”
Now, the attention is on helping students with this transition. Faculty have figured out a way to give juniors a choice between transferring to a new school for their senior year or graduating early, giving students a chance to finish their last two required classes on breaks and in June.
“I am leaning towards graduating early, it was a tough choice,” Emily Diaz, a junior at the school, told Currents News.
It’s a tough choice but one Emily was grateful she could make.
For students without the option of graduating, families attended virtual meetings to voice questions and concerns to the Leadership Council of the Sisters and St. Agnes’ administration. The school also stated it’s trying to develop a plan that would allow current juniors to accelerate their studies and earn a St. Agnes diploma by August, if they so desire.
St. Agnes Principal Susan Nicoletti sent a letter to the students who had applied for the fall — encouraging them to reach out to The Mary Louis Academy, the only all-girls high school remaining in Queens, as well as other Catholic high schools.