GLENS FALLS — Parishioner meetings at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church are being held with St. Mary’s-St. Alphonsus Regional Catholic School to discuss the future of the school, according to a statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
The series of meetings, two that were held Wednesday and one more planned for Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., were scheduled to discuss strategic planning and ideas from the school and parish community.
“The goal of these meetings is to develop strategies that will ensure the continued success and viability of the parish and school,” the statement from the diocese said.
The diocese said the planning process was initiated several months ago and facilitated by an independent consultant, while meetings with specific groups such as parents, board members, faculty and alumni are ongoing.
A Post-Star reporter attempted to attend one of the meetings on Wednesday, but exited the church after news media personnel were asked to leave because the meeting was private and not open to the public.
The statement from the diocese said opportunities for public participation in the strategic planning initiative will be presented in the coming months.
The school’s principal, Patty Balmer, did not make any official statement on the meetings to The Post-Star and deferred to the statement from the diocese.
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The Rev. Thomas Morrette, pastor of St. Mary’s church, also declined to comment on the meetings and said if and when any decisions were made by parishioners and church officials, it would be announced.
John Gollhofer, former director of development for St. Mary’s-St. Alphonsus school, said the issue was not the school’s operation, rather the potential cost of updating the historic building.
“What the real challenge is that it’s an old building and it needs some serious TLC (tender, loving care),” Gollhofer said. “The school can operate. The problem is the upkeep with the building.”
He said the building — originally constructed in 1932 — still has the original windows, and plumbing and replacing the windows alone could cost about a million dollars.
He said he thinks the church is still in an early exploratory phase and officials are reaching out to many different groups to help gather information before deciding how to move forward.
In addition to repairing the building themselves, he suggested one path may be to work with the city and state to have the building designated as a historical site.
“My hope is they can maintain the building and somehow work something out with the city. It’s like a cornerstone to the whole community here and the historical aspect of the building is incredible,” Gollhofer said.