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Catholic school in Newton will close at end of academic year; its 23-acre property sold

An all-girls Catholic school in Newton for grades 7 through 12 will close in June and its 23-acre property will be sold, while a regional Catholic high school in Fall River is also shutting its doors, officials said.

The announcements came a month after a Catholic high school in Brighton had announced this would be its final year.

In a statement on its website, Mount Alvernia High School in Newton said students can enroll next fall at Fontbonne Academy, an all-girls Catholic school serving grades 7 to 12 in Milton.

“Fontbonne is aligned with our culture and commitment to developing the full person, and the school believes deeply in cultivating women of courage who are ready to create their own individual future,” school officials said.

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Mount Alvernia said the decision to close came after the founders, who own the property, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, determined they could no longer keep living on campus.

The school said it would be “unsustainable” to continue on campus alone, and the property will be sold.

The school’s board of directors “worked tirelessly to explore all options, including maintaining the MAHS community in a new location, if at all possible,” school officials said. “In considering these options, we firmly believe our students will have the best opportunity to continue to receive the high-quality education MAHS has provided for nearly 100 years by becoming a part of the Fontbonne family.”

Kathleen Joyce, a Mount Alvernia graduate who served on the school’s board of directors for 14 years and chaired the panel from 2019 to 2022, said the Franciscan Sisters voted to sell the property in April 2022 without informing the board.

Later that year, in October, the sisters attended the school’s annual gala and allowed it to accept a family’s $250,000 donation, according to Joyce, who detailed her account on Facebook.

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Joyce said another Catholic organization that the sisters did not identify is poised to buy the property.

“It’s absolutely shocking,” said Joyce, an attorney who lives in Dorchester, in a phone interview. “It’s distressing. It’s really sad. The school has meant so much to so many of us.”

The Franciscan Sisters didn’t return calls and e-mails seeking comment Thursday. The current head of the board of directors could not be reached for comment.

The school’s enrollment has held steady at around 250 students annually since grades 7 and 8 were introduced during the 1994-1995 academic year, according to its website.

The statement didn’t provide a timeline for the sale or identify prospective buyers or possible future uses. The property is currently assessed at $30.9 million, city assessing records show.

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said Thursday that city officials learned of the school closure only recently.

“This news is difficult for the students at Mount Alvernia High School and their families,” Fuller said in a statement. “We recently learned of the closing, and like any large property that becomes available in the City of Newton, we will explore the options and undertake our due diligence to better understand the opportunities.”

Mount Alvernia will continue to operate as normal through June 13.

“We understand that this news will bring significant change for everyone in our community, and that each person will be impacted differently,” school officials said. “Throughout this transition, our students will remain our top priority and we are committed to doing everything we can to minimize any stress this decision may cause and help them as they move forward in their academic careers.”

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Classes were not held Thursday but the school was open until 11 a.m. with support counselors on hand.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Fall River said Bishop Connolly High School, a Catholic school in Fall River, will also close at the end of the academic year.

In a statement, the diocese cited declining enrollment, the financial toll of the pandemic, and the “current economic environment” as factors in its decision. In addition, the diocese said it spent more than $1 million to keep the school functioning over the past five years and no longer has the resources to stay open.

School officials have scheduled Zoom meetings with parents to discuss admission to other Catholic schools, tuition and financial aid, transportation, and other questions, according to the diocese.

“We are confident that our Catholic school leadership will provide both pastoral support and educational guidance to all affected families so that their children can transit,” said Bishop Edgar da Cunha.

His words were echoed by Daniel S. Roy, superintendent of schools for the diocese.

“While we sincerely regret having to close Bishop Connolly, our ultimate goal is to strengthen Catholic education in the Diocese for the future,” Roy said. “We are committed to helping families transition to other Diocesan Catholic high schools and to make the process as seamless as possible.

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News that the two schools are closing came one month after St. Joseph Prep Boston, a Catholic high school in Brighton formed a decade ago by the merger of two smaller schools, said it will also shut down at the end of the academic year.

In a letter to the school community, the board cited financial problems and an unsuccessful search for “a strategic partner(s) who could support the long-term sustainability of the school,” as well as “the challenge of ongoing demographic shifts among middle and high school-aged children.”

“This combination of key factors has resulted in insurmountable financial pressures that have led to this decision,” the board said.

Enrollment in Catholic schools throughout the Boston Archdiocese has held steady this academic year compared to last year, when the schools gained some 2,300 students during the pandemic.

Enrollment is currently 32,370, compared to 32,376 in 2021-2022 and 30,058 in 2020-2021, said Terrence Donilon,a spokesperson for the Boston Archdiocese.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.