Nov. 29—”In this school we stick together,” reads one of the poster boards hung on a tiled section of wall at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School.
And for the better part of a century, the Nob Hill parochial school has done just that.
But after close to 75 years of serving students, Our Lady of Fatima will close its doors for the final time in May, the school publicly announced Tuesday, after years of declining enrollment that left the school financially unable to continue operations.
“I was really sad,” Humberto Morales, father of a first-grader at the school, said when he learned the news. “Our Lady of Fatima — it has been (here) for a very long time.”
“It’s a community,” he added. “Something important will be ending for generations.”
The decision to close the school was largely a financial one, Principal Melinda Mader said. Over the past several years, the school’s faced steadily declining enrollment. Six years ago, the school had roughly 100 students. Currently, Our Lady of Fatima has 54.
That means that as a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, no grade has a number of students that cracks the double digits, according to Mader, who added that in order to keep operations of the school fully functional and sustainable, it would need closer to 100 students.
So after an extensive review of the school’s financials and enrollment trends, Our Lady of Fatima and Archdiocese of Santa Fe leaders made the decision to close the school.
“This has been probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my career,” Mader said. “This is not something that was decided lightly.”
Despite marketing efforts to entice more students, the COVID-19 pandemic did Our Lady of Fatima few favors, Mader said. The school has also seen many families opting for homeschooling in recent years, she added.
The school, near Lomas and Washington NE,was formally dedicated in January 1950, and at the time had almost 160 students across four grades, according to the news release announcing the closure.
It’s not clear yet what will become of the school building, Mader said. She said she plans to invite leaders of other parochial schools to visit with Our Lady of Fatima families in the new year, so they can make informed decisions on where to send their children.
Among some families, there was still a sense of optimism Wednesday afternoon — a lingering hope that maybe, somehow, Our Lady of Fatima could go on.
“We’re faith-based people, and I think we look at things like this and say, ‘Maybe we can turn it around,'” said Angelique Tafoya, a mother of two students at the school. “But that’s just not how this played out.”
To some extent, Tafoya said she also wasn’t necessarily shocked — she’d seen firsthand that there were fewer students at Our Lady of Fatima. But her sons, a kindergartner and a first-grader, still hadn’t yet come to terms with the news.
“We’re a big family here, so it’s a big difference,” Tafoya said. “I think they’re sad for the unknown, and will they be seeing their friends anymore?”