NJ Catholic school needs $250,000 by June 30

Pictured: Saint Mary's School in Gloucester City

June 6, 2011 2:56:05 PM PDT
Time is running out for Saint Mary School in Gloucester City. If $250,000 isn't raised by the end of the month, the historic Catholic school will close.

Enrollment at St. Mary's in Gloucester City has dropped 34% since 2008, down to 185 students. The Diocese of Camden projects that, by the end of next school year, there will be a deficit of $400,000.

But, despite those dismal numbers and the decision to close, students, graduates and St. Mary's families are fighting to keep the school open.

"We have a short deadline of June 30th to come up with $250,000 but we're not going to give up," said parent Angela Bridge.

Founded in 1858 as the first Catholic school in south Jersey, St. Mary's has become another victim to mounting debt and declining enrollment. It's a blow to families who consider it a treasure in the community.

"If we had been given more time maybe we could have prepared, raised more money, helped any way we can," said parent Kelly Devereaux.

Supporters are determined. They're leafleting door to door, planning fundraisers, soliciting donations and have started a Facebook page to keep everyone informed.

"We're all trying. We're raising money, we're handing out fliers, we're doing everything we can," said student Kelsey Collarin.

"I'd like to have been given information as to what we need to do to keep the school open, not just simply shut down, forget it, game over," said Chuck Wigginton of St. Mary's school board.

A spokesman for the Diocese says the school was warned it was in danger three years ago - and that it's unlikely St. Mary's will be kept open regardless of how much money is raised.

"Add up the numbers of students and the tuition and figure it in terms of paying and maintaining a school and paying the staff," said Father Peter Feuerherd of the Camden Diocese. "It's just that in the long term, numbers here do not add up."

"My mom, my grandfather, and my sister graduated from this school and I'll be graduating tomorrow," said student Tyler Berglund.

Unless there's some kind of miracle, those 8th graders may be the last class that ever graduates from St. Mary's.