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OLVA To Shut Its Doors

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February 2011

By Lauren Gualdino

When students from Our Lady of Victory Academy received a letter in the mail stating that the school they currently were attending would be closing its doors for good in June, most could only conjure one thought.

Disbelief.

Neither the students nor the parents were aware that the school was in jeopardy of closing, as most found out on Jan. 13.

Junior Alexandra Pouder stated, “We noticed that the freshman and sophomore classes were smaller, but when we asked the teachers if the school was closing, they simply told us that the rumors were not true.”

The news came the same week that the Archdiocese of New York announced it was closing eight of the schools it runs in Westchester and Putnam counties. Our Lady of Victory Academy is independent from of the Archdiocese but is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

Our Lady of Victory Academy opened in 1945 and has shared a campus with Mercy College since 1961. The school was originally located in Tarrytown, but soon grew too large for the location. The Sisters of Mercy needed a space to expand their “young Mercy College,” as they referred to the school, so they moved it to Dobbs Ferry. With this new location the school was able to grow and a strong relationship between Mercy College and Our Lady of Victory Academy blossomed.

Impact Staff

Chief Operating Officer Joseph Schaefer stated that Mercy College had no knowledge of the closing before it was made public and found out the news at the same time as the high school students and their parents last month.

The school is large enough for 400 students with tuition of about $7,000 a year. According to a letter sent to alumni written by the academy’s president, Sister Patricia Wolf, “Our current enrollment is 280 with freshman and sophomore classes of 60 and 61. For the past two years OLVA has had a deficit budget, which was funded through reserves…however, despite the efforts of a wonderful administration, faculty and parents, as well as the Board of Trustees, our enrollment has not increased. Thus, without an adequate enrollment, it is not possible for us to maintain the quality of our program.”

The shock of the news spread fast. Facebook groups and other networking sites tried to spread the word and to see if something could be done. Pouder was the creator of the group Save Our Lady of Victory, which currently has 573 members of current students and alumni.

Jacquelyn Giardina, who graduated from OLVA in 2005, joined the group so that she could be updated on any news about things going on in the past few weeks since the announcement.

“Its actually really difficult to

read what some of the current students are writing because they are trying so, so hard to keep the school open,” she said.

Current students took it just as hard. “The day after we received the letter in school was very hard. We were all crying. I now have to look for a new high school when I just started looking at colleges,” said Pouder.

Several parochial girls’ schools are already at maximum capacity in the area, such as Maria Regina, located in Hartsdale. There are other options like Sacred Heart in Yonkers, which is co-ed, Our Lady of Good Counsel in White Plains and The Ursuline School in New Rochelle.

As for prospective students who put Our Lady of Victory as one of their choices on the TACHS, or Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools, if they were accepted into the school they received a letter stating acceptance but noting regretfully the school is closing. Students taking the TACHS are limited to applying to three high schools: scores from the test will be sent to all three schools of the student’s choice. Scores can be forwarded to Archdiocese of New York (New York City and Westchester), Diocese of Brooklyn (Brooklyn and Queens), and Diocese of Rockville Centre (Long Island) high schools, as well as certain independent schools. James Waters of Bronxville, whose daughter Caitlin was accepted to Victory, was very upset by the

news of the closing.

“I feel that my daughter wasted a choice for a school. They should have let the public know sooner,” said Waters.

It’s not only the current students who are upset about the closing of the school. Lisa Gagliardi, who gradated from OLVA in 1985 stated, “I am upset about the closing. I’ve heard some mixed things such as that the Sisters’ of Mercy just closed without trying to raise funds at all. I am so upset for the current junior class that only had one more year; now they have to switch schools for their senior year. Its just so sad.”

Giardina and her fellow classmates from 2005, with whom she is still very close, all shared the same reaction to the news. “We were definitely shocked, but we’ve all heard the enrollment has been down. It’s just upsetting that it’s not going to be there anymore. I feel terrible for the girls currently attending who are possibly going to be separated from their friends next year.”

When Giardina graduated, there were just over 80 girls in her grade, a similar number to the current junior class.

Even though Mercy College and Our Lady of Victory have shared a campus for 50 years, many students at both schools are unclear of the connection between them. Notably, Mercy College graduate programs utilize classrooms at the high school for evening classes. Second, Mercy College upgraded the soft

ball field and upper parking lot, which are both the property of Our Lady of Victory. The college upgraded the field a few years ago and the two schools utilize the properties jointly. Lastly, the high school contains a power plant that powers Our Lady of Victory, plus Main and Mercy Halls. Mercy College operates and maintains the power plant and the schools share the costs of the usage.

“Right now we have a commitment from them to continue our relationship for the present time. We don’t know what their thoughts are for the future,” said Schaefer.

Currently Our Lady of Victory has a staff of about 42. A teacher requesting anonymity stated to The Impact that they were not allowed to talk publicly. Faculty contracts run through Aug. 31. Many of the students will be transferring to Sacred Heart in Yonkers; the principal has contacted a few teachers regarding possible positions there.

Interested parties are awaiting answers to questions, such as the fate of the building, the future location of the current students and employment opportunities for teachers. For now, the girls, staff and alumni are trying to stay positive.

“We know that this message is difficult to receive, even heartbreaking. Let us all come together as one big family and enjoy each day we have left together. Please do not look at this as the end, but as a new beginning in

your journey of life,” as stated in a letter from the Parents Committee To Save OLVA. “You will always have your memories at OLVA in our hearts.”

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OLVA To Shut Its Doors