CHAMPLAIN — St. Mary's Academy needs money or it will close.
The school must raise roughly $80,000 by June 1 to cover health-care and retirement costs, among other debts. Plus, enrollment is down and there doesn't appear to be a lot of opportunity to draw more families to enroll their children at the K-6 parochial school, which also houses a preschool.
"If they don't raise it, I have to close," said the Rev. James Delbel, pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Champlain.
"I had to borrow a lot of money (for the school) when I first came here six years ago, and if I have to borrow (more) money, I would close the school."
In 2005, Delbel charged the parish with raising $100,000 or St. Mary's Academy would close.
"They raised it," the priest said.
But the financial situation and enrollment continued to worsen.
"Last year was a really bad year for us, and we were hoping for better enrollment this year, which didn't come off," Delbel said.
A couple of years ago, 78 students were enrolled in grades K-6. Today, there are 60, with the preschool bringing the total to 101 children.
"Because of the excessive bad year last year, we have a large debt of about $80,000, and that has to be paid off," Delbel said.
"So I have given the challenge to the school that they will have to raise that money, because the parish just doesn't have it."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg "has been very good and carried us, but there comes a point when you just have to pay it, and that point has come," Delbel said.
The deadline is June 1, he said.
"I can't sign any contracts until I have the money."
The priest said the parents and faculty have been faithful and loyal to the school and deserve a chance to try to raise the money.