Saint Jude’s School in Waltham is closing because of growing debt and low enrollment
When Patricia Aubin heard that after 54 years Saint Jude’s School in Waltham would not be reopening in the fall, she was overwhelmed with a feeling of “tremendous sadness.”
“It never entered my mind that they would close the school in July,” said Aubin, who has served on the school’s advisory board for more than six years.
The Archdiocese of Boston announced last week that the school must close because of low enrollment and financial constraints.
“The disappointment and loss that we all feel is hard to put into words,” school officials said in a letter e-mailed to parents Thursday. “The strong ties and great commitment that you have made to this school community make this decision very painful.”
Jane O’Connor, the school’s principal, and the Rev. Adrian Milik said the parish was no longer able to support the school, which has seen its enrollment shrink, without putting the parish itself at financial risk, according to the letter.
The Archdiocese of Boston also did not have the funds to subsidize the school. The projected enrollment for the upcoming school year was only 80. That was down from 109 in 2018 and 130 in 2014, said Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.
“There’s been a decline in enrollment in many Catholic schools,” O’Connor said in a telephone interview. “In this area, there’s state-of-the-art public schools that offer more in the way of after-school programming and things we can’t offer here because of the financing.”
Meghan Conneely, a mother who has two children who were enrolled at Saint Jude’s, said she was shocked that the school would announce the closure so late into the summer.
“We’re not naive,” Conneely said. “We understand you need enrollment. It’s just the fact that it happened last week that we’re all thrown for a loop.”
Low enrollment and financial problems have plagued a number of Catholic schools in the area, leading to closures. Just over a month ago, Pope John XXIII High School in Everett announced it would close after falling into deep debt. In 2017, Milford Catholic Elementary School, Saint Clement School in Medford, and Saint Anthony School in Fitchburg all closed their doors.
O’Connor was hired in April after longtime principal Sister Katherine Martin unexpectedly died last June, Aubin said. O’Connor’s contract officially began July 1.
O’Connor described making the announcement to families as “shocking and hard,” and she said she had spent many sleepless nights worrying about the future of her students.
However, there has been overwhelming positive support from other Catholic schools in the area, she said. Saint Columbkille in Brighton and Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham have already held open houses for Saint Jude’s students, she said.
In addition, Catholic schools with job openings will be asked to give priority to Saint Jude’s faculty and staff, according to the letter sent to parents. A counselor will also be made available to families and staff so they can talk about their “thoughts and fears,” O’Connor said.
Before the closure was announced, Aubin said, people at the school were willing to do anything to keep Saint Jude’s doors open.
“We knew we would need time and energy and a lot of hard work to make a go of it with the school, but we thought we had that time,” she said. “It was a great little school, and I think it could have been again if given the opportunity.”