Parents fight to save an Auburn school

When parents heard their parochial school was going to close, they organized to take it over and keep it open

Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic School has been an Auburn fixture for 72 years, but this spring parents were told it would have to close because of declining enrollments.

"We went to work" says parent Maureen Angotti, who has three children enrolled, with another set to start Kindergarten next year. Angotti, and about a dozen other parents were already part of a school marketing committee, looking to help with recruiting. Now, they're working on turning the school into an independent, faith-based school 'in the Catholic tradition.'

"It's just too precious to let go, it wasn't an option," says Tara Arpino, who has a 5th grade son at the school. "We needed to do something."

What they've done already is hired a new principal (the teaching nuns at the next-door convent will be reassigned), and put a new school board in place.

A website is taking registrations. And, they're working on getting the school building. The parish priest, Father Vasyl Colopelnic, who originally annoucned the closing, is helping with the dollar a year lease. They're also working on a link with Tyburn academy, which offers junior high and high school classes, also with a 'classical curriculum.'

There's been a lot of support for the change, in the Ukrainian community where the school is located, including among businesses like Falcon Lanes, which is offering to do fundraisers. When the school loses its parish support, it will also lose a financial contribution, which the parents will have to make up. "We're no strangers to fundraising," says Arpino. They're also looking into grants, including for a new pre-K.

For legal reasons, the school will have to change names, and the parents have chosen 'John Paul the Second', perhaps a surprise, since it's a Ukrainian, not Roman Catholic. But they point out that the late pope worked to bridge the two faiths.

Mostly, they're motivated by the prospects of continuing the ethic- and character building of the school's tradition. And they're getting a lot of support.

"Getting people around you involved, I think that's the biggest thing" says Maureen. "If you can get the talented people around you involved that are passionate about the school and have the same principles as far as parental choice around their child's education, that's what matters."