Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in West Haven to close

After 55 years of service to the community, Our Lady of Victory Catholic School will permanently close at the end of the school year because the parish can’t financially sustain it anymore.

The announcement comes after several parish-owned schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford evaluated the sustainability of the schools, looking at enrollment, financial viability, school leadership and geographic sustainability of Catholic education.

“It is with a heavy heart that I made this difficult decision,” Our Lady of Victory pastor the Rev. Kevin Dillon said in a release. “Our Lady of Victory School is blessed with dedicated students, teachers and administrators, but sadly the school’s financial reserves have been depleted over the years due to declining enrollment, escalating costs of operation, and diminishment of parish subsidies. The bottom line is that the school can no longer sustain itself.”

The school enrolled 94 students the past academic year in grade pre-K through eight, which is significantly fewer students than the parish enrolled five years ago when the school had 186 students. In a parish-owned school, the financial support comes primarily from tuition.

With such a decline in student enrollment, the support from tuition hasn’t been sufficient to keep the school running and ithas had to increasingly depend on parish subsidies to meet its financial obligations, according to the release.

Tuition for one child at Our Lady of Victory is approximately $5,000, with discounted tuition rates if parents send more than one child, which is hard for parents to afford, parishioner Ellen Galligan said. She has been attending Our Lady of Victory since she was a girl, having received all her sacraments in the church and being married there. Galligan attended the church when the Rev. Thomas J. McMahon oversaw the building of the school.

“Father McMahon dreamed of having a school,” Galligan said. “He loved children and dreamed of having it continue.” Her nephew graduated from Our Lady of Victory last year and Galligan has had many family members attend the school. “It’s sad and difficult because I know (Our Lady of Victory) tried so hard, but it’s something we can’t help, not even fundraisers would help.”

Patti Travisano graduated from the school in the 1970s when it only had sixth-, seventh- and eight-grades, where she said she made lifelong friends and gained spiritual enlightenment that has stayed with her.

“If you don’t have kids, you can’t have a school,” Travisano said. “I don’t know what could’ve been done differently to encourage more parents to send their kids. In the ’70s, Catholic schools were popular. I don’t know why parents aren’t sending their kids there any more.”

Dean Macchio said the loss of students results from the fact that the pool of kids in town to attract is smaller than ever and faith doesn’t hold as much importance for people.

“We live in a society where faith isn’t a priority and that has influenced the decline, but price of tuition is the biggest factor,” he said.

As student enrollment dropped, tuition costs needed to rise to cover the financial gap, but as that happened, sending children to the school became too expensive for parents, so fewer sent their kids, Macchio said.

With their parish school closed, the remaining Catholic schools in the area include St. Rita School in Hamden, St. Francis and St. Rose of Lima School in New Haven and St. Bernadette School in New Haven. St. Lawrence School is only two miles from Our Lady of Victory and supports 147 students with room to accommodate students coming from Our Lady of Victory, a release said.

The teachers from Our Lady of Victory school will be given priority status when applying to other area Catholic schools, the release said. Additionally, deposits that families have placed for next year will be returned.

Our Lady of Victory School’s closing comes as several other Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford make changes. St. Mary School in Branford and Our Lady of Mercy School in Madison will form the East Shoreline Catholic Academy, advanced STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) school called to open in the 2018-19 academic school year located in the building of St. Mary School.