Marist High School is exploring the development of portions of the school’s properties on Kennedy Boulevard and 57th Street to “ensure the school’s long-term financial stability.” The decision was made at a Marist High School Board meeting last Thursday to hire a project manager to market the properties. The school’s valuable properties include a large parking lot and front lawn and a strip of land on the southeast corner of the property.
“This is the first step in moving forward,” Marist High School Head of Schools Alice Miesnik told the Bayonne Community News. “If this could help sustain us financially, I’m all for it, and I know the [Marist Brothers] want to see this school prosper and continue.”
The school’s decision to explore alternative means of funding comes eight months after the school announced that it was at risk of closing due to a structural deficit, caused in no small part by declining enrollment, and thus tuition revenue.Through its “Save Marist NJ,” the school raised nearly $800,000, which kept it open and gave the Marist Brothers confidence in the school’s financial sustainability.
Right now, the students’ $9,150 annual tuition payments and fees are covering about three quarters of the cost of running the school, while the other quarter is raised through fundraising. During the recession after 2008, the school raised its tuition to keep up with rising costs.Meanwhile, charter schools, other private schools, and public schools slowly ate away at Catholic school enrollment across the country.
Marist faces challenges
At Marist, years of declining enrollment (only 76 freshman students enrolled by the deadline for the 2017-2018 school year, and 306 in total); the closing of Catholic elementary schools that graduate students to Catholic high schools; increased costs and tuition, and competition from charter schools, all contributed to the school’s deficit.
“The Marist Brothers will do everything we can to keep Marist High School going,” said Brother Patrick McNamara, the Marist Brothers USA Provincial in a release. “We are grateful for all the hard work, financial contributions, and generous sacrifice of school leaders, alumni, staff, students and their families and friends who are involved in building a solid future for Marist.”
The Marist Brothers are an “international religious community of more than 3,000 Catholic Brothers dedicated to making Jesus known and loved through the education of young people,” according to its website. Marist High School was founded by the Marist Brothers in 1954.
“If this could help sustain us financially, I’m all for it, and I know the [Marist Brothers] want to see this school prosper and continue.” – Alice Miesnik
A plan for the future
“The exciting news emerging from our meeting is a willingness by the Marist Brothers to engage a real estate project manager who will entertain proposals for the development of portions of the school’s expansive property,” said Steve Schlitte, chairman of the Marist High School board. “The Marist Brothers’ intent is to provide enhanced financial stability for the long-term operations of the school, far into the future.”
A recently completed appraisal of the school’s properties showed “considerable value,” according to the release. Marist’s strategy for long-term sustainability going forward looks to be twofold. It will sell off real estate and build student enrollment through a program called “College Now.” This program allows students to complete an Associate’s degree, which normally takes two years to complete after high school graduation. With College Now, studentscan complete the degree during their four-year tenure in high school.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.