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A proposal to merge two Catholic schools in Elma will not move ahead.

Bishop Richard J. Malone declined to give his approval to the plan, saying in a letter to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Vincent de Paul schools that the proposed merger did not contain “compelling evidence” to reverse his Jan. 15 announcement that both schools would be closed at the end of the academic year.

Malone, however, did grant a request from the Elma parishes to operate an early learning childhood center for 3- and 4-year-old children at the Annunciation School location.

Annunciation School on Clinton Street and St. Vincent de Paul School on Seneca Street were among 10 schools scheduled for closure as part of a Catholic Diocese of Buffalo effort to confront declining enrollment by consolidating buildings.

Parish leaders said the closings would create an undue hardship for Catholic school children in Elma, who would have to travel long distances by bus to get to other Catholic schools.

Those leaders submitted a proposal to the bishop asking that kindergarten through eighth grade remain open at St. Vincent de Paul and that Annunciation host an enhanced prekindergarten program.

Across Erie County, enrollment in kindergarten through eighth grade in Catholic schools has fallen by 5,711 students, or 41 percent, since 2003-04.

Annunciation had 103 students enrolled in 2012-13, and St. Vincent de Paul had 161.

Diocesan officials said at the time of the announcements about the closures that demographics for the Elma area did not show the potential for enrollment growth.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com