St. Mary’s fate is sealed by lack of stability

Rev. James Delbel speaks with parents about St. Mary’s Academy closing.

Rev. James Delbel speaks with parents about St. Mary’s Academy closing. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

CHAMPLAIN — St. Mary’s Academy is closing and there is no going back, at least not at this time, says the Rev. James Delbel, pastor of St. Mary’s.

The priest said he promised he would never again borrow money to keep the school open and he aims to keep his promise. He further said the school has been unable to pay back its debt.

But some school officials see it differently and believe St. Mary’s Academy could remain open.

“We raised the money and our enrollment was up,” said school officer Amy Gehrig. “Everything was moving in the right direction. We were doing what we needed to do and are just baffled by this.”

“It is over,” said Delbel.

Roughly seven years ago, he said he borrowed a great deal of money to keep the school open, also promising that if he had to borrow money in the future he would close the school.

And that is just what happened, Delbel said.

He met with Diocese officials in Ogdensburg and was given the green light to keep the school open when a $50,000 donation was pulled back.

“We thought we were set to go, and that was the trip wire, and suddenly we would have to borrow again,” Delbel said. “I had to keep my promise to the parish.”

But Gehrig said the donor took the money back because of a new stipulation that all funds raised would have to be done so in the name of the church. The donor simply wanted to ensure the funds would be used for the school.

St. Mary’s Academy has a projected shortfall for next school year, though there appears to be confusion on the amount.

Delbel said the projected budget deficit for next year is $140,000.

He admitted there were positive signs for next year, including increased enrollment, but he said the money was not there.

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