The only Catholic high school in Bayonne, Marist High School, will close at the end of the school year in June. Marist High School has served the Bayonne community and surrounding areas for nearly 65 years.
According to a press release from school officials on Jan. 8, the closing is the result of an operating funds deficit that depleted the school’s reserves. Fewer and fewer students have enrolled in Marist High School over the past 10 years, with enrollment declining by more than half since 2008.
Brother Patrick McNamara, Provincial, and the Provincial Council of the Marist USA Province, said they made the decision to close the school after exhausting all options to save it.
First opened in 1954, Marist High School has since followed the principles of the Founder, St. Marcellin Champagnat, Marist Brothers, and Lay Marists. Throughout its history, Marist High School has awarded more than 8,000 diplomas to children of Hudson County residents.
The Archdiocese of Newark does not own the school. Instead, the Marist Brothers and the provincial council run the school and had to make the decision. The closure was decided a week before the Jan. 8 announcement.
“We Marist Brothers have cherished the many years of excellent education given by dedicated Brothers and Lay Marists, and we are grateful to all the extraordinary efforts by the Marist School Board and Alumni to support Marist,” Brother McNamara said. “But we, the Marist Brothers or Marist High School, simply do not have the funds to continue school operations after this academic year.”
The Marist Brothers and the school administration tried to prevent Marist from closing through a campaign they announced called “Save The School.” The 2017 campaign needed to raise $1.5 million to continue operations. However, the effort was unsuccessful, bringing in only $750,000.
With those funds, Marist High school continued operating temporarily while building a strategic plan that would explore all options to avoid closing. Part of this plan included the hiring of President Peter G. Kane in September 2018.
“Marist High School is proud of its service to the community through six decades, maintaining the highest standards of Catholic education,” Kane said in a press release. “This has been a painful and difficult decision for everyone involved. I am heartened by knowing the positive impact Marist has made in the lives of our current students, their families and alumni, who have been so supportive of our efforts through this challenging process.”
Catholicism on the decline
The closure of Marist in Bayonne is symptomatic of a nationwide decline in Catholic education over the past decade. Marist’s current enrollment of 235 students represents a dramatic decline from more than 300 students as recently as 2015.
According to the National Catholic Educational Association, almost 1,000 elementary and secondary schools have closed since 2009.
New Jersey has experienced more than 100 Catholic school closings over the the past two decades. All of these school closures resulted from similar issues to Marist’s, declining enrollment and revenue challenges.
Catholic high schools that have closed in Hudson County over the last 20 years include St. Aloysius High School and the Academy of St. Aloysius, St. Michael’s, St. Mary’s and St. Anthony in Jersey City, Sacred Heart Academy in Hoboken, St. Joseph of the Palisades in West New York, and Holy Rosary in Union City.
“Despite our best efforts, we cannot continue to bridge the annual operational gap of over $1 million,” Kane said. “The steady decline in enrollment, along with increasing expenses and the ongoing financial assistance we provide to our families has made this closure unavoidable.”
All classes, athletic team schedules, guidance, and extracurricular activities will continue through June.
“We are hopeful that all current students will stay through June,” Kane told the Bayonne Community News. “They have every reason to stay because we are going to continue to give them a world class education.”
School administration, faculty, coaches, and guidance counselors will continue their commitment to the community of enrolled students and parents and focus their efforts on assisting families to make the necessary arrangements for transfers to regional high schools.
According to President Kane, the faculty of Marist will advise students on an individual basis. Kane said that of the 235 students, 55 are seniors who will graduate in June.
Kane said that the remaining 180 will be assisted by staff who will find the best fit for the student financially and logistically, regardless of whether the recommended high school is a Catholic school.
“We will explore all options on behalf of each student to make sure they are matched with the best school for them,” he said.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.