THE BRONX - Parents, students and educators at a Barnes Avenue Catholic school hope their fundraising prayers will be answered to avoid a closure.

St. Frances of Rome will soon merge with St. Anthony's on Matilda Avenue, according to plans announced this month by the archdiocese. Officials say St. Anthony's is a newer facility with a spacious gym and cafeteria.

The merger had been considered in the past because the schools also share a chaplain and are close to each other.

Merger critics recently held a meeting to kick off a $250,000 fundraising campaign. The money would go toward repairing St. Frances? roof and other improvements.

Despite fundraising efforts, the archdiocese maintains that the plan is fixed. A spokesperson says teachers with tenure will have first priority to keep their jobs, and students with scholarships will retain them.

However, a recent graduate is pleading for St. Frances to remain open. "Please, please keep our school here because I love this school," says Keyana Thomas. "I want my sister to get the same education I did from these wonderful teachers."