Officials: New Jersey Catholic school to close doors after 61 years following decline in enrollment
Mater Dei Prep High School in Middletown will be closing its doors at the completion of the academic year in June 2022, after 61 years of providing academic excellence to Monmouth County and the Diocese of Trenton.
The school will join dozens of other Catholic schools in New Jersey which have ceased operations over the last two decades.
The school nearly shut down back in 2015, but students, teachers and parents rallied to save the school from closure.
A dedicated group of donors managed to raise more than $1 million, but the school remained on life support. Enrollment continued to drop, fundraising efforts were compounded by the COVID 19 pandemic, and the board of trustees made the decision to end the school following the conclusion of the academic year.
Cynthia Platko, the grandmother of a freshman student, says she's devastated about the closure, and no one had any warning it was coming.
"We don't know what to do," says Platko. "These children are trying to figure out where they can all go to stay together, where they can all go to still be friends and still feel safe and still have each other as well as all the teachers and the faculty that's been there they're going to miss them terribly."
In a statement, board chair Kathryn McLaughlin says, "We have cherished the many years of excellent education led by our dedicated administration, faculty, staff and coaches. The fact is that we simply do not have the funds to continue school operations after this academic year."
Mater Dei continues a trend of Catholic school closures both nationally and in New Jersey.
Nearly 1,000 schools have closed since 2009, with more than 100 of them in New Jersey -- all because of declining enrollment and funding issues.
All classes, athletic team schedules, guidance and extracurricular activities will continue in full force through the end of the current academic year.
Since 2014, enrollment at Mater Dei Prep had declined by more than half.