ST. LOUIS — The Archdiocese of St. Louis is planning to close Rosati-Kain and St. Mary's high schools at the end of the school year.
St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski confirmed the decision at a Wednesday news conference, saying the closures are part of the "All Things New" consolidation plan. The timing of the announcement was to allow families and staff time to prepare for next year.
"As we evaluate strategic planning for the future you have to find a balance between mission and the shifting demographics," Fr. Christopher Martin said. "
"(We made this decision) based on the mission of the archdiocese as a whole, maintaining the schools we have in the city in the future, maintains our commitment to Catholic education and addresses the realities of enrollment trends, subsequent rates and costs as well."
According to the archdiocese, the plan will bring hard changes like school closures and parish mergers, as well as other, more welcome changes like higher teacher salaries and more affordable tuition.
"We are immensely grateful to the faculty, parents, alumni and former staff at these two schools who have carried on the tradition of Catholic education in these communities for generations," Rozanski said during the news conference. "However, recent trends, both in population shifts and in Catholic education make these closures necessary."
In a Tuesday message to the school community, St. Mary's leaders said they are working on a plan to keep the all-boys school open beyond this year.
"We are already working with influential alumni and business leaders to review all alternative options to operate as a Catholic high school independent from the Archdiocese," the statement said.
Alumnus and current parent Bob Schillinger said generations of family members have attended St. Mary's. The curriculum, diversity and small-school feel develop well-rounded young men he said.
"I have a neighbor who sent their son here," Schillinger said. "Their son had learning challenges and struggled in grade and middle school. When she looked at private high schools they told him he wasn't a fit there. They were more worried about their ACT scores. He came to St. Mary's and they welcomed him with open arms. The folks that I've talked to have thrown their support behind keeping St. Mary's open. It's too important to the neighborhood to let it close."
Mike England has been president of St. Mary's for ten years. He said the school plans to open its doors next school year with or without the archdiocese's support.
"What it's going to take, is a significant amount of money that can cover our operations," England said. "We have to continue to be able to provide the financial support for every young man who wants to attend St. Mary's. Again that's the mission, the mission is to make a quality Catholic education accessible to those who can't afford it. It isn't just about supporting the best and the brightest or those who can support it. this is about everybody else. That's who we work with. That's who we take care of. That's who we provide this opportunity for."
St. Mary's High School, located on South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis' Dutchtown neighborhood, opened in 1931 as South Side Catholic. According to the school's website, the school sits on a 27-acre campus that also includes collegiate-level sports facilities. The school's alumni include former major league baseball player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola, former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and car dealership founder Frank Bommarito, whose name adorns the campus.
England said the closure would impact more than academics. St. Mary's is woven into the fabric of the Dutchtown neighborhood.
"We are very involved with St. Joseph Housing initiative," England said. "Where we buy vacant homes around here, renovate them to the highest standards, new roof, HVAC and then sell them to low- and moderate-income families who have never owned a home before. It helps the homeowner, helps the block because we get rid of a vacant house."
Rosati-Kain High School is an all-girls school located on Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End, across from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Neighbors said the loss of this institution would be detrimental to the Central West End. According to the school's website, it was founded in 1911 with the opening of the Rosati Center and Kain High School, which merged to create Rosati-Kain High School. It was the first school to integrate in St. Louis in 1947.
"You can just feel it in the halls to see how much the students love the faculty and how much the faculty love the students," Sarah Morris, a teacher of 24 years said. "To see it come to an end is heartbreaking. I just have to show up every day and continue teaching students as best I can and enjoy every minute I have here."
It touts itself as the only Archdiocesan, college-preparatory, all-girls Catholic high school in the St. Louis area. The school currently serves nearly 300 students, according to its website.
The St. Louis Archdiocesan Teachers Association said in a Wednesday statement that it was "extremely saddened" by the decision.
"The elimination of Rosati-Kain and St. Mary's as established learning facilities is a tremendous blow to not just our cherished school communities, but to the entire St. Louis area," SLATA said in its statement. "School closures carry high social and economic costs for people across communities."
Several generations of Alexis Endsley Puglisi's family have attended and worked at Rosati-Kain.
"Shock, sadness," the alumnus and current marketing director said. "Rosati is such a legacy. I met numerous friends that I didn't know attended Rosati until after we left. We were able to bond over that. It's sad that now we are at the age where we start families and none of our kids will be able to attend here."
SLATA said it expected to work closely with the Archdiocese regarding teacher placement for its members "as we grieve along with our teachers, students and families affected by this change."
"We are so proud of the legacy both schools have and the students they have helped form in our Catholic faith. Please pray for all who have dedicated themselves in service of Christ through the church, and in particular please keep all affected in your prayers, as I will keep them in mine," Rozanski said.
In August, the archdiocese said a draft proposal on how to restructure schools wouldn’t be ready until 2023.
The full statement from St. Mary's High School is below:
"(On Monday), we were notified by the Archdiocese of St. Louis that they plan to close St. Mary’s High School at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
"While we are very surprised and disappointed with their decision, the mission of St. Mary’s High School is too vital to our students, our community, and our region to let it go away. We are already working with influential alumni and business leaders to review all alternative options to operate as a Catholic high school independent from the Archdiocese.
"In a matter of hours, the outpouring of support for our school has been overwhelming. St. Mary’s High School has been a permanent fixture on the city’s south side for more than 91 years. Our mission to provide young men with a quality college preparatory education has never faltered.
"While this will take significant planning in a short amount of time, we want to remain as transparent as possible. We will provide families with pertinent updates as soon as they are available."