Generations of alumni and students came together at the Saint Gabriel School graduation on Friday, June 9, to celebrate not only its newest alumni but a goodbye celebration as the school permanently closed.
“It was a bittersweet moment because they didn’t only mention that they were Valedictorian or Salutatorian, they mentioned that they were the last,” said Marcia Reidy Barrio, the mother of the salutatorian, Danny Barrio. In addition to Danny, her daughter also graduated in 2021.
Located on the Upper East Side, Danny is “nercited” — nervous and excited — to attend Regis High School in Manhattan. He was only one out of three students accepted into the famed private Catholic all-boys Jesuit school.
“They did say things about being the last class, but they didn’t make it all about that because it was all about the kids,” Marcia said.
Within the valedictorian — Ben Lee, who will also attend Regis — and salutatorian speeches, they also did not make it all about the school’s closure.
“I witnessed firsthand the care and dedication our faculty and staff put forth,” Danny said. “I’d love to thank each and every person who has been an independent and grown student in the middle school, although that would take me all night.”
Danny attended Saint Gabriel from Pre-K3 and is notably a third-generation student. Glenn “McCarthy was my math teacher too, that’s the funny part,” Marcia said.
But it was not only her — McCarthy taught seven of Marcia’s siblings, too.
Saint Gabriel “Is a vital part of our community and a place that has welcomed people of all faiths. We wanted our kids to be educated in a school that had rigorous academics and taught the importance of giving back,” said Mary Schreibstein, parent of two students who has been enrolled from pre-K3 to eighth grade and has since graduated.
She continued to express the support of alumni who have affected Saint Gabriel. They show up to basketball games and graduations to cheer each other on.
She said that alumni have also raised money and awareness for students with health issues.
But the school did not stop celebrating there. A week later, Friday, June 16, was the last day of classes. The Homeschool Association hosted a picnic where students were dismissed early to enter the yard and celebrate.
“I appreciate the association because what they did was, they got the food from local businesses — from Garden Gourmet to Pizza Chef,” Marcia said.
The last day was surreal for the school, faculty and staff.
Eileen O’Beirne, the seventh-grade homeroom teacher and Danny’s social studies teacher since the fifth grade, will be one of the few teachers transitioning next school year to the new school named St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Gabriel School.
McCarthy is a math teacher at Saint Gabriel for about four decades. He will be retiring since the news of the school closure.
“Instead of making his choice to go, the choice is being made for him,” Marcia said.
What seemed to be a rumor on Feb. 15 became a reality as the Archdiocese of New York announced 12 schools to be closed the next academic year. Four will merge into two, one being Saint Gabriel.
Since then, parents, alumni, and students drew up petitions and started campaigns to save the school but to no avail. Once the archdiocese decided on the closure, it was final. It claims the closure of the 12 schools is due to financial concerns due to under-enrollment during the pandemic.
With all these big moments happening, there will be one more. On Saturday, June 24, from 2 to 5 p.m., more than 400 people will attend a celebration at Saint Gabriel over its closure. The event is an open house for alumni to go walk through the school one last time.