After 83 years educating young women in White Plains, Our Lady of Good Counsel Academy High School will close in July, the Sisters of Divine Compassion announced Feb. 12. The closure comes after efforts over the past few months to find a new location for the academy proved unsuccessful.
In a letter to parents Feb. 12 Sister Laura Donovan, R.D.C., the school principal, stated: “Today the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Divine Compassion announced that the school would cease operation in July of 2015. Regretfully, we will not be admitting a freshman class to GCA for the coming year.”
The closure is the result of a decision by the Sisters of Divine Compassion to sell the 16-acre campus so they could use the funds that have been subsidizing the school to care for elderly members of the community who are now in their late 70s, 80s and 90s, with many in need of suitable health care accommodations.
The private academy is not an archdiocesan school though the archdiocese, at the request of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion and the academy’s board of trustees, had been helping in the search for a new location for both the high school and the elementary school.
The search for a new site for the elementary school was successful. With the agreement of Holy Name of Jesus parish in Valhalla, Good Counsel Elementary School will be housed in the former Holy Name of Jesus School starting in September.
Finding a location for the high school was much more “challenging” and ultimately unsuccessful, said Cardinal Dolan in a letter to the Good Counsel Academy “family” Feb. 6.
“The archdiocese searched for a vacant building in good condition and large enough to house Our Lady of Good Counsel Academy,” wrote the Cardinal. “When this exercise uncovered a possibility in New Rochelle, the Good Counsel Academy Board of Trustees decided this location would not attract sufficient numbers of students and the retrofit of the building was cost prohibitive. As recently as December 2014, the archdiocese also attempted to negotiate a building lease . . . in another part of Westchester County. Ultimately the costs associated with that move and the ability to finalize an agreement with the various municipalities did not meet the needed timeline for the school to vacate and relocate to another campus by July 2015. At this point the archdiocese has done all that has been asked to assist this private school in remaining open.”
The Cardinal assured Good Counsel families that the archdiocese is committed to ensuring that neighboring archdiocesan high schools “enthusiastically” welcome Good Counsel students in the fall.
The Sisters of the Divine Compassion began exploring the sale of all or a portion of their 16-acre campus in 2014. The compound consists of 12 buildings including the order’s motherhouse and the two school buildings. There were 400-plus students in the high school and about 160 in the elementary school.
Distraught students and angry parents had held demonstrations and written letters calling for the school to remain open.
In a letter to the Good Counsel community Feb. 9 the Sisters of the Divine Compassion Leadership Team acknowledged their “deep regret and sadness” at the closure.
“It’s been a blessing, an honor and a privilege as Sisters of the Divine Compassion to sponsor and be involved in mission with all of you of the Good Counsel Academy High School Community,” they wrote. “Thank you for sharing your lives, your children and families with our sisters for all these years. We are deeply sorry for all the pain involved in this difficult decision.”
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