St. Gabriel School parents rally to save their school

St. Gabriel School parents haven’t given up on the school, even though they were told Tuesday night that it will close at the end of the school year.

Parents learned the news during a meeting at the church that was announced as concerning “the future of St. Gabriel School.” It was there that parents and teachers expressed outrage and shock that there appeared to be no future for the school.

Greyson Schwing, one parent, said parents are banding together to try to keep St. Gabriel’s open and to turn it into a school independent of St. Gabriel Church.

“We have 140 people already committed to action,” Schwing said, adding that the group has set up a GoFundMe page.

“We really don't want the church to be financially hurt and we're going to need money to operate the school and find a new place,” Schwing said.

The GoFundMe link is

“We are more than just a school that is closing, which was decided by St. Gabriel parish leaders on January 26, 2016,” the page explains. “We are a community of wonderful children, parents, teachers, staff, parishioners, alumni and concerned citizens. We love our school and want desperately to stay open despite the decision. If we could raise enough money to either offset the deficit or create an independent Catholic school we would have a good chance at staying open.”

The GoFundMe page indicates a goal of $120,000.

Parish officials said the school will close because of mounting debt and dropping enrollment. Facilitator Dave Larson told the crowd gathered Tuesday night in the church hall that for the calendar year ending Dec. 31, 2015, St. Gabriel School had a $111,709 operating deficit, and that declining enrollment is making financial matters even worse.

The enrollment at St. Gabriel School was 139 students in October, and Larson said that when a Catholic school’s enrollment drops below 200 the “viability of the school continues to drop.”

Saint Gabriel School is a private Catholic elementary school located near the former Simon Lake Elementary School on the city’s west side. It serves students from preschool through grade 8, and was founded in 1965, according to the school’s website.

Not long ago there were three Catholic K-8 schools in Milford: St. Gabriel School, St. Mary School and St. Ann School. St. Ann School closed about five years ago, after struggling with “internal strife and declining enrollment.”

The Archdiocese of Hartford announced Tuesday that in addition to St. Gabriel School, St. Vincent dePaul School in East haven will close. Officials cited the same reasons for the closing of that school: financial deficits and dropping enrollment.