Frustration As Waterbury Catholic School Set To Close
Sacred Heart High School and Middle School are scheduled to close June 30 after educating students for 99 years. While some families are preparing to transfer their children to new schools, alumni and school community members have been working together to prevent the closing.
Waterbury Alderman George Noujaim, a high school alumnus, has a son enrolled in the middle school. He and others want to see the school stay.
“I was just distraught, heartbroken,” he said. “I was sad for the [alumni], the teachers and staff there and especially the students. You know, having to feel that this would be the last year, so if you’re a junior now, you got to go somewhere else, or if you just started your career at Sacred Heart, like, you know, my son, you can’t even finish it being a Sacred Heart [alumnus].”
The Archdiocese of Hartford said the decision was all about enrollment. Valerie Mara, superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese, said the incoming freshman class would have had just 20 students. Demographics is one reason.
“When we also look at how [the] pandemic so significantly hit Waterbury, not just in terms of infection rates but in terms of unemployment rates and the hardships to the industries in Waterbury, it’s not enough students to support two large Catholic high schools at this time,” Mara said.
Noujaim believes that if the archdiocese had addressed the dwindling enrollment sooner, there would have been time to find a solution. He said the timing of the news put some families in a bind.
“Now a lot of students have lost the opportunity to do applications to other schools, for financial aid with other schools, for the lottery system with the magnet schools with the city of Waterbury or other surrounding schools,” he said.
Father Jim Sullivan, rector of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and administrator of Catholic Academy of Waterbury, said it’s sad to see Catholic schools close and merge. He hopes and believes the city will experience a rebirth of faith.
“Everything begins with a seed, and I think there’s a new seed and a new plant that’s going to sprout into a different type of springtime in the church, and we’ll see what those future years look like,” he said.
Sacred Heart alumnus Joseph Summa shared a video online on behalf of a group working to save the school, seeking pledges to keep the school open for the next two years. He said $500,000 was pledged in 10 days. Summa and others had planned to meet with the archdiocese earlier this month, but he said the archdiocese backed out.
“The email that we received from the archdiocese canceling the meeting said that basically they were willing to discuss kind of the future use of the empty buildings but that it was going to close, and it was obvious at that point that we had different agendas.”
Father Michael Whyte, vicar for education, evangelization and catechesis for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said the decision to close the school considered what was best for students.
“It’s called the excellence of education -- that’s what we pride ourselves on in a Catholic school,” he said. “And, you know, a Catholic school that [is] kind of on a skeleton scale is not ... going to benefit the children. And that should be everybody’s focus, what is the best opportunity for the children.”
Sacred Heart High School’s principal and president did not respond to an interview request. For families exploring their options for the next academic year, scholarship funds are established at St. Paul Catholic High School and Holy Cross High School.