Diocese says Our Lady of Fatima Academy in Wilton will stay closed despite petition

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy announced its closure on June 29, 2022.

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy announced its closure on June 29, 2022.

Jeannette Ross / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — It’s likely Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy will remain closed officials said, despite an online petition from parents and alumni that has garnered hundreds of signatures.

The petition started July 1, days after the school’s board of directors decided to close Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy. The goal of the petition, per its description, is to “ultimately keep the doors open or, at a minimum, have the opportunity to be heard by the diocese of Bridgeport.”

The petition had 555 signatures as of Wednesday.

“Parents and students worked tirelessly to save the school, for which we feel there was a total lack of empathy,” the petition reads.

Brian D. Wallace, communications director for the diocese, said Wednesday that the diocese had just become aware of the petition and, while he continued to voice appreciation for the parents and their passion and continued effort, there isn’t much he believes can be done.

“The school is closed,” Wallace said. “The board voted on the decision. I don’t believe there is any possibility of a reversal.”

In May, the diocese and the board instituted a June 29 deadline to reach a minimum enrollment of 95 students to be able to balance the budget so it could open next year. In late June, Wallace said that the school has been having troubles well before this, saying it was the “third crisis in the past few years.”

Wallace said Wednesday that, despite the immense push of the OLCA Initiative Committee, which spent weeks recruiting for the school, the number of students pledging enrollment for the next academic year was 89. The petition claims that the anticipated enrollment was only shy of the diocese’s minimum by two students.

Of that proposed total enrollment, Wallace said more than half would be students in the pre-K, kindergarten and first grade levels.

“It was very uneven in the grades,” Wallace said, “and quite anemic in the higher grades.”

For example, he said the fifth grade would have three students next year.

Multiple signers of the petition cited the need for a small school environment, while others pointed to the important role the school has played in many Wilton and Norwalk residents’ lives. Some also questioned what other use the building would have other than a school.

“Closing this school not only affects the current children, families, faculty, it affects many other nonprofit organizations that need just a little extra love and support,” the petition reads.

Wallace said he’s heard the concerns but reiterated that the school would not be able to pay its employees without the proper enrollment.

“Tuition largely keeps our schools open,” he said. “The ability to pay that tuition, and reach certain enrollment levels, that provides money to then pay the staff.”

Furthermore, Wallace said that both students and faculty began building ties to other schools.

“Faculty have taken positions elsewhere,” Wallace explained, adding the diocese is aware of a number of parents who have already registered their children in other schools. “There doesn’t seem to be any path to reverse this.”

The petition description states that the school may not be the most profitable, but has paid dividends in the number of lives it has touched and transformed, and organizers hope to be heard soon by the diocese.

“It’s the last thing we wanted,” Wallace said. “They did their best, they just couldn’t meet that mark.”