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St. Mary’s leaders announce plan to keep the St. Louis boys’ high school open

Mike England, president of St. Mary’s Southside Catholic High School, reacts during an announcement the high school will remain open as an independent entity on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, in Dutchtown. “A crisis has been averted,” England told a crowd of supporters and media.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Mary's President Mike England appears before a group of school alumni and supporters Thursday morning to announce that the high school will continue as an independent entity. The Archdiocese of St. Louis planned to close the school in 2023.

St. Mary’s High School will live to see another day.

School leaders announced Thursday a plan to keep the doors open for at least three years, an effort set in motion when the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced in September it would close the Dutchtown boys’ academy at the end of the current school year.

The school will become an independent nonprofit entity under the canonical sponsorship of the Marianist Province of the United States, beginning July 1. Its new name will be St. Mary’s Southside Catholic High School.

“God wants St. Mary’s to make it,” St. Mary’s President Mike England told a group of supporters and alumni in the school’s gymnasium.

Southside Education Collaborative, a newly formed nonprofit organization, will take responsibility for the school’s finances. It has raised $3.3 million from five private donors for the school’s immediate needs and will soon launch a public fundraising campaign in hopes of raising a total of $10 million. The funds would carry the school through an initial five-year plan.

The collaborative signed a three-year lease with the Archdiocese of St. Louis to continue using the school buildings and property.

Archdiocese officials said in a statement that they are pleased the school has a new sponsor that will allow it to be an independent Catholic school.

By continuing as an independently operated school with an official religious affiliation, St. Mary’s will adopt a model similar to that of Chaminade College Preparatory School and St. John Vianney High School.

“I'm here because not only what St. Mary's means for me now and what has meant for me for my whole life, but what it means for today's youth in the city of St. Louis and the Dutchtown neighborhood,” said former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, an alumnus of the school. “Our students need St. Mary's. This neighborhood needs St. Mary's. St. Louis needs St. Mary's.”

St. Mary’s and Rosati-Kain high schools were the first selected for closure by the archdiocese as part of its plan to consolidate schools and parishes, known as All Things New. Supporters of Rosati-Kain have also formed a nonprofit organization and are seeking a way to keep the school open.

Advocates for St. Mary’s have noted that it has a sizable population of Black students and serves many students who receive financial aid. The archdiocese closed Trinity High School in Spanish Lake, a majority-Black school, in 2021.

Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski cited declining enrollment when he announced the impending closures. Fewer than 300 students are now enrolled at St. Mary’s, which has the capacity to serve more than 1,000 young people on its 27-acre campus.

The school has 40 students signed up to join the freshman class next year, England said. Uncertainty about the school’s future has contributed to the decrease in enrollment, he added.

The archdiocese plans to announce consolidation of some parishes in spring 2023 and identify additional schools to close before the 2024-25 school year.

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.