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McHugh Closing 'Devastates' Staff, Parents, and Students

Monsignor McHugh School in Cresco will close at the end of the current school year. The announcement that the school which had served the area for almost 60 years, surprised and saddened many. (Boro* Photo)

SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton, citing financial losses, announced earlier this month that Cresco’s Monsignor McHugh School (MMS) would close at the end of this school term. The closure announcement apparently came with little or no warning and left parents, students, and faculty “devastated”, in the words of teacher Michelle Albanese.

“The last few years at McHugh have been the best years of my life, the hallways were filled with happy children, lunchrooms filled with laughter, and classrooms filled with love,” Albanese said in an online post. MMS “has been a great place for student to be themselves and be in a loving, caring environment.”

Albanese’s sentiment was echoed by former MMS student (1996-2005) Seana Green, “McHugh was a loving, nurturing catholic community, full of wonderful teachers, staff, and IHM nuns.” Green says she is “so grateful that I was able to grow up in this school. MMS gave me so many amazing memories.”

MMS serves grades pre-K through 8, and has 97 students registered this academic year. The Diocese cited demographics showing that the number of potential students within 15 miles of the school would drop five percent over the next five academic years. With only 50 students pre-registered for next year, the announcement said that declining enrollment, unfavorable demographics, a $450,000 loss anticipated for this year “has left us with no other option.”

The school has strong support among its faculty, student, and alumnus, many expressing their gratitude and found memories. June Calandra, who graduated from MMS when it taught grades 1 through 12, appreciated her education in things beyond the books, “I couldn't ask for a better education and preparation for life. The nuns were strict, but I learned not only academics but respect and empathy. I have wonderful memories from that school.”

Many parents, teachers, and students expressed high regard for the school’s current principal (or “princiPAL, as she is wont to say), Mount Pocono resident, Dr. Becca Torregrossa. Dr. Torregrossa, with a Bachelor in Psychology and Elementary Education Certification, a Masters in Education(curriculum & instruction), and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, taught at MMS for 14 years before being named principal in 2018.

Vivian Barrera-Atchley, whose son has been a student there for four years, says “our principal is a wonderful compassionate person. She has gone out of her way (for him) always does for anyone.” Claudia L Fabiano, who has had children in the school for the last six academic terms, said Dr. Torregrossa was the best of the principals they encountered. “We absolutely loved all of our teachers, the small school environment and the safety the school provided. As for the current Principal, we found her to be by far the best. She also was the one who was the most invested in all of the children.” Echoing the sentiment of many, Fabino adds, “MMS, we are so terribly sorry. You are in our hearts.”

“As princiPAL of Monsignor McHugh, I would like to thank those of you who have kept the children, families, and teachers at the forefront of your comments,” Dr. Torregrossa said in an online post, “I have always said there’s a lid for every pot. Not every school is perfect for every child. However, McHugh was perfect for my children. It was a great place to be a teacher. And after earning my doctorate in educational leadership, it was a wonderful place to be a principal. During this difficult time, I ask that you keep our school community in your positive thoughts.”

The Diocese said it would offer families of students currently enrolled at Monsignor McHugh School “the opportunity to receive a continuation grant” at another catholic school next year. No further details were provided. Notre Dame in East Stroudsburg has said that any student enrolled at MMS would be “automatically” accepted there.

In a school year suddenly upturned, the students, parents, and faculty of MMS now have to address yet another major, unexpected disruption to their lives. Ashley Nat, an MMS teacher for fiver years, expressed it this way, “during this current time of uncertainty, this was our second home, our constant that our children could rely on, and our own livelihoods to feed our families. We are devastated by this news. I have just lost my job, my children have lost the only school they have ever attended, and most importantly, we have lost our second family/home. Right now there are a lot of families hurting from this.”

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