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Community Of Closing Brooklyn Jesuit School Fights To Remain Open

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Students, parents and teachers at a well-regarded school run by Jesuit priests in Brooklyn learned this week it's slated to close in September, but the principal is refusing to give up.

The Department of Education has recently closed dozens of middle schools it says had failed. Another one, Brooklyn Jesuit Prep, is set to close in June. But this one is doing well - very well, according to the happy students and strong academic results.

"The amount of growth that we see over their four years in this school is absolutely tremendous," said Brian Chap, principal of Brooklyn Jesuit Prep.

The problem for Brooklyn Prep is that they don't have enough money.

"Honestly, I was kind of devastated because this school had helped me a lot since fifth grade," said Ryan Emmanuel, a student at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep. "I was going through a lot, and this school has been here for me. It's like my second home."

Across the country, thousands of Catholic schools have closed over the past 15 years, and the city was set to lose 16 more this summer, run by the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Brooklyn.

But Brooklyn Prep is different. It's managed by the Jesuit Order of Priests, one of three middle schools here that were known as the Nativity Schools. They were created to accept low-income students and offer a basically free education.

Families at Prep pay just $75 a month. In the summer, students spend two weeks at camp in the country. Only half the students are Catholic.

"We are here to serve students that could not afford a private education like this," Chap said.

The Nativity schools were so successful that more than 50 others have opened across the country, but recently, it's been hard for the schools here to pay their bills. Last year, the original school on the Lower East Side closed, and on Monday, the board announced that they'll try to keep St. Ignatius School in the Bronx open but will close Brooklyn Prep.

Chap said students have already missed deadlines to get into the better public middle schools.

"Due to the timing of the decision, it's going to be incredibly difficult on them," he said.

The board president said he "truly regrets" making this decision so late, but they'd been working to try to keep the school open.

The principal still won't give up. He's still trying to raise the money on his own. How much?

"Our figure, which is pretty safe, is a million dollars a year," he said.

It's an investment, he said, to setting students on the right path during their most difficult years.

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