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Tearful good-bye for St. Mary’s Assumption School

Elementary school founded in 1868 will close on June 15

Above, the near-capacity crowd packs St. Mary’s Assumption Church for the closing Mass of the St. Mary’s Assumption School.

photos by BILL TARUTIS

Left, Noelle Barnak, 5, and her mom Jessica listen during the somber St. Mary’s Assumption School closing Mass.

Cindy Vough, right, and Heather Clancy present the gifts at the closing Mass for St. Mary’s Assumption School.

Principal celebrant Rev. Tom Maloney offers thanks to a long list of people who have supported St. Mary’s Assumption School throughout the years.

Fifth-grader Holly Daveski listens during the closing Mass of St. Mary’s Assumption School Thursday night in Pittston.

photos by BILL TARUTIS

An emotional Rev. Ric Polmounter delivers the homily, recounting the long history of St. Mary’s Assumption School.

Long-time faculty member Sr. Ann Marie Kase listens to the homily.

Once St. Mary’s Assumption Catholic School wraps up the 2010-2011 school year, the city of Pittston will be without a Catholic school for the first time since the mid-1800s.

School officials, students, their parents and school supporters gathered Thursday night for a celebratory Mass and open house at the St. Mary’s Assumption Church and school on Church Street. The school is closing as part of a reorganization of the Diocese of Scranton schools.

Sharon Bosco, who was recognized for the 38 years of her life that she devoted to the school as a teachers aide, never thought she would see the day when the school closed.

Before working as an aide, she was a student there. Her daughter and two grandchildren also attended.

“I was shocked,” Bosco said about the April announcement of the closure. “Since the 1940s, this school has been a huge part of my life.”

The feeling of shock and disbelief was common among many involved with St. Mary’s Assumption.

Principal Mary J. Kozick had been in her position for only a year and a half when she heard of the closing. Prior to the April announcement from Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera, Kozick said she had heard no indication that the school would close.

The news is still so fresh that she is not aware of what she will be doing next year. She is also unaware of any plans regarding what will be done with the church and school facilities.

Kozick estimates that roughly 95 percent of the students will continue pursuing a Catholic education at one of several other Catholic elementary and junior high schools in the area.

The Rev. Tom Maloney, who has been involved with the school for the past four years, praised the school and church community for its positive attitude throughout the last few weeks.

And he credited Kozick’s leadership skills with setting that tone.

“There was a lot of anger and disappointment, but she worked hard to remind everyone how important it was to make sure the children had a positive experience and that we were sending them off with positive feelings,” Maloney said.

St. Mary’s Assumption Catholic School was accredited by the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools and it offered classes from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, for ages 3 through 14.

It was founded by the Sisters of Christian Charity in 1868. The first classes were taught in the church until a school was built on the corner of Wood and Sand streets in 1890.

In 1924, a new school was built. That building will remain in use until the doors close for the final time on June 15.

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