Harlem’s Rice High School May Close In June

The Rice High School Board of Directors announced that it is pursuing several options to ensure that the school can continue to offer young men a Catholic, college preparatory education in central Harlem. Due to a confluence of factors, Rice High School is presently at-risk of closing in June 2011, at the conclusion of its academic year. The Rice High School Board of Directors is developing a plan to keep the school open, keep the school in Harlem, restore its financial strength and position it for a bright future.

Rice High School, established in 1938 in central Harlem by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, is a Catholic, college preparatory school that exists to educate young men by developing spiritual, academic, and personal qualities that will allow them to make a difference in their families, communities, and society. Rice High School is an independent Catholic private school in the Archdiocese of New York. As a private school, Rice High School’s financial operations and policies are determined locally by an independent board of directors. Rice High School is financially independent from the Archdiocese of New York.

Over the past several years Rice High School has struggled with a number of key challenges. Foremost among them are a declining enrollment, from 385 students in 2003 to 232 in 2010 – a loss of 40%. The school has the capacity for 400 students. This decline in enrollment and tuition revenue has exacerbated the school’s financial challenges, in addition to a decline in donations and the increasing and frequent costs required to maintain the deteriorating building at 74 West 124th Street. This has resulted in a growing six-figure operating deficit.

The Board of Directors is developing a plan to address these challenges. The plan first seeks to strengthen the school’s finances. The Board has asked the Archdiocese of New York to help identify new sources of support and enrollment. The Archdiocese has offered to lease to Rice High School the All Saints Elementary School building on 52 East 130th Street. All Saints is better suited to the needs of the student body and fits into the five-year plan considering enrollment goals and the need to reduce maintenance costs. While substantial renovations are required to make the All Saints building suitable as a high school, the costs of operating that building are significantly lower than the operating costs of the current building.

The Board will engage with parents, alumni, and other key stakeholders in a process to identify resources that may contribute to a sustainable future for Rice High School. In the initial step of this process, the Board and administrators will set up a series of meetings with these groups over the next several weeks. The Board will make a final recommendation about the future of the school before the end of the current school year in June.

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Choice is part of our democracy, but schools with long traditions in Harlem like Rice High School that are struggling are in trouble. What options do they have?

Finance (Photo credits: www.myhardhatstickers.com)

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