Despite a tuition bill equal to nearly 70 percent of his property tax total, Tom Grech said he believes sending his two children to Our Lady of Lourdes in Malverne is "well worth the sacrifice."
But Grech may be the exception.
While private high schools have weathered the recession on Long Island, Catholic schools at the elementary and middle school level have not fared as well. Declining enrollment has been cited as the deciding factor in all closures and consolidations of Catholic and private schools.
"It does seem apparent that some families on Long Island are unable to afford both Catholic grammar and high school and are opting out of the grammar school experience and only choosing a Catholic high school...," Grech said. "This is one of the reasons that Catholic grammar schools are facing additional pressures regarding enrollment."
Nancy Hiler, a North Bellmore mother of two, said that although the local school district served her two sons well at the elementary level, they both attended Chaminade High School in Mineola because of the school's "reputation for academic excellence."
"Catholic school also offered religious education, which to me was another advantage," she added.
The last remaining Catholic school in the Five Towns - - closed in 2005, when only 123 students were enrolled. That same year, St. Bernard's in Levittown was also forced to close. The school that opened in 1962 with an enrollment of 600 children had steadily declined to 166 students when it was shuttered.
Several other Catholic schools in Nassau County consolidated in 1993. St. James in Seaford, St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage, St. Kilian's in Farmingdale and St. Pius X in Plainview all closed their doors individually and opened up as St. John Baptist De LaSalle Regional School, with campuses in Bethpage and Farmingdale. Currently, only the Farmingdale campus remains open.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre recognizes this challenge and has established groups such as the Tomorrow's Hope Foundation to solicit financial support from both individuals and the corporate community. The Diocese did not respond to interview requests in time for this story.
Yet private schools such The Waldorf School of Garden City, open since 1947, have managed to succeed despite tuition costs of $11,000 for kindergarten and $20,000 for high school.
School Administrator Susan Braun said the school's enrollment dropped just 5 percent due to the failing economy between the 2009-10 school years.
"It's been hard enough for people to hold onto their homes, no less to pay tuition for a private school," Braun said. "I think that speaks to the dedication of the families in our school community who have really sacrificed."