On June 21st at around 11:15 a.m., 10th Ave. in Chelsea was breezy and mild, with commuters and High Line sightseers taking their time arriving at wherever they needed to be. Yet at the corner of W. 21st St., where the Guardian Angel School looms in stately red brick across from the modernistic gallery one can find across the street, tears were flowing and close embraces were shared widely.
The last day of classes is always an emotional moment for teachers and students alike, as indelible bonds made over the school year give way to new relationships formed in the fall. Yet all of this grief was compounded by a difficult fact for the assembled community: the Guardian Angel School, the last vestige of institutionalized Catholic education in Chelsea, was closing for good after more than 110 years (it opened in 1911).
Ann, a teacher, was crying profusely as she squeezed student after student rushing towards her for goodbye hugs. She laughed and heartily agreed as one told her that every teacher would be invited to a summer barbecue at their house. “It’s very sad. We’re all crying,” Ann said, and the evidence on display didn’t contradict her. Another teacher, helpless in the face of such a sudden discontinuation of the school, exclaimed to Ann that “I said I wasn’t gonna cry!”
Christie Acosta Perez, the principal, was doing her own extensive round of farewells and seemed to be shedding a few tears herself. At one point, she paused being interviewed to consult with a child (who couldn’t be more than five years-old) that promised her that he would be doing community service this summer.
Perez said that she believed a February decision by The Archdiocese of New York to close the school (along with 11 others) was “the wrong choice” and a “heartbreaking mistake.” While the church cited budgetary constraints such as a school deficit, Perez said that the closure would leave no remaining Catholic schools in Chelsea. No further summer events would be scheduled.
“There’s nothing else,” Perez continued, mourning what she viewed as an immeasurable blow to what she described as a “tight-knit community.” She herself is unsure what her next steps will be. As for now, the nearest Catholic school for Guardian Angels families seeking to continue a religious education will be at the School of the Blessed Sacrament, located on 52nd St.