Appeal Filed to Keep Tonawanda Catholic School Open

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 7:56 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 7:56 PM EDT

Tonawanda, N.Y. (WKBW) Three parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Tonawanda have filed a formal appeal with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to keep open the parish elementary school.

St. Francis of Assisi School is one of ten Catholic Schools that are scheduled to be closed at the end of the current academic year.

The Diocese says rising costs and decreasing enrollment led to the decision which also considered research about populations trends and demographics.

Citing "Canon Law," Tonawanda attorney Mark Saltarelli filled the appeal asking that Bishop Richard Malone's decision to close the school be "revoked' and "suspended" because it relied on "seriously flawed" demographic data and criteria.

Saltarelli says St. Francis of Assisi School is fiscally sound with an endowment fund of $500,000 and an enrollment of 189 students.

"We'll take this up to the Vatican if need be," added Saltarelli.

Bishop Malone now has 30 days to respond to the Canon Law appeal.

"I really believe that the complexity of each individual situation, there could certainly appear that the criteria was not applied evenly, but I don't believe that is true," responded Bishop Malone from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

St. Francis of Assisi is the last Catholic school servicing the City of Tonawanda.

According to Saltarelli, it is also the only Catholic School capable of handling students from North Tonawanda and Niagara Wheatfield.

"If that school closes, those children will be shut out of a Catholic education," commented Saltarelli.

St. Francis is not the only school fighting to stay open.

Parents and students at Fourteen Holy Helpers in West Seneca are collecting petitions to keep their school open.

Parishioners at St. Bernadette's in Orchard Park are collecting online support to keep the school open - with the possibility of converting it into a private independent school.

"Once they do that, they can no longer call themselves Catholic," said the Bishop who added there could also be some logistical issues concerning ownership and operation of the current building.

Other closing Catholic schools are considering filing a Canon Law appeal, said attorney Saltarelli.

Thursday night at 7pm, a parish meeting discussing the fate of St. Francis of Assisi elementary school, and the appeal process, will be held in the school building at 70 Adam Street, Tonawanda.

Mark Saltarelli says he expects a large crowd of parents, parishioners, and representatives from other closing Catholic schools to attend.

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