Wilton’s Our Lady of Fatima Academy announces it’s closing: ‘It’s a really sad and difficult moment’

Photo of J.D. Freda
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 — Despite parents pushing to keep it alive, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy announced Wednesday that it will be closing its doors due to enrollment and budget issues.

The Diocese of Bridgeport said in late May that the school was facing some “serious challenges” around declining enrollment, an issue that metastasized into the decision to close the school.

Director of Communications Brian D. Wallace said Thursday when enrollment drops below a certain number, it becomes almost impossible to balance the budget and pay for staff and faculty.

“We had a deadline of June 29 to reach a minimum enrollment of 95 students and a balanced budget to have the ability to open next year,” the school’s board of directors wrote in a letter to parents Wednesday. “Regrettably, even with the immense push of the OLCA Inititiative Committee recruitment efforts, we were not able to meet this requirement. Therefore it is with tremendous regret that we announce that Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy will not reopen in the fall.”

The academy opened in 1962 and serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Wallace said “it’s a really sad and difficult moment for the diocese” and lauded the parents’ efforts.

Heather Hubbard, one of the many parents who has been working tirelessly on the committee since May, pointed to a lack of clarity and understanding with the current administration.

“Our Lady of Fatima, as with many Catholic schools, may have struggled with enrollment but it was held together by our previous administration,” Hubbard said before adding that she believed the current regime lacked transparency and communication at the administrative level. “What the OLFCA Initiative Committee has accomplished with regards to enrollment over the last six weeks demonstrated that, if consistent and correct information had been shared, we could be in a very different place today.”

Wallace said the diocese is aware of parents’ frustrations.

“It’s entirely expected,” Wallace said. “The only thing I can say, in terms of transparency, is this is the third major crisis in a few years. I think people were aware of the challenges to keep the school open.”

The school was put in a similar situation in 2020 when it also faced closure. Parents were able raise more than $140,000 in a matter of days, which helped attract new enrollment at the time and keep the school open.

Gerry Davis, an athletics coach at OLFCA, said that the diocese is losing one of the best kept secrets of Wilton and all of Fairfield County.

Davis and his wife, Clara, were awarded the St. Augustine Medal of Service in 2019 for their constant support and years of service to the school.

“Does the diocese understand the lasting effect this will have on the community?” Davis asked. “With everything going on in the world, we all need more places like Our Lady of Fatima. It’s not just a school, it’s part of the community, a stepping stone for so many great kids.”

He reminisced about coaching in tournaments with his teams that always played the right way.

“All the lifelong memories will remain,” he said. “But sadly, the future memories will be gone.”