Two Lynn Catholic schools that have each served students for more than a century have announced plans to merge starting this fall.
St. Mary’s, which now has a high school and a middle school on Tremont Street, is combining with Sacred Heart, a pre-kindergarten to eighth grade school on Boston Street.
The merger will result in a unified pre-kindergarten to 12th grade school housed in the existing facilities at the two sites — which are about a mile and a half apart — and a future 30,000-square-foot STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) building that St. Mary’s is constructing on its campus, according to Paul Halloran, a spokesman for the schools.
“We are creating something for Lynn that is unique, new, and exciting,” said John F. Dolan, Head of School at St. Mary’s, noting that there are no other pre-k to 12th grade parochial schools in the area.
Founded in 1880 as a grammar school, St. Mary’s added a girls’ high school in 1923 and a boys’ high school in 1930. The high schools merged in 1968. The middle school, known as the Marian Division, began with seventh and eighth grades in 1990, with the sixth grade added in 2011. Sacred Heart has been an elementary and middle school since it began in 1902.
The merger is based on a memorandum of understanding that was accepted by the St. Mary’s board of trustees and the Sacred Heart advisory board. It was approved by the Rev. Brian Flynn, pastor of the Lynn Catholic Collaborative — which includes St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart parishes — and the Archdiocese of Boston.
Sacred Heart will house the combined school’s pre-k to fifth grades, and St. Mary’s its sixth to 12th grades. The existing sixth to eighth grades at Sacred Heart will relocate to St. Mary’s Marian Division.
The freed-up space will allow Sacred Heart to expand its early childhood program, which will now be offered to the unified school. Sacred Heart this summer plans to renovate the space through a $50,000 Lynch Foundation grant.
Officials said the merger also will allow them to offer a coordinated pre-kindergarten to 12th grade curriculum, and to combine efforts in such areas as extracurricular activities and professional development.
Additionally, it will provide Sacred Heart students with access to St. Mary’s $13.5 million STEM building, set to open in the fall of 2020.
The unified school is projected to serve 731 students, including 550 at St. Mary’s and 181 at Sacred Heart. While Sacred Heart’s student numbers have fallen in recent years — St. Mary’s have been relatively steady — Dolan said enrollment was not a factor in the merger.
The current administrations at St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart will stay intact. Three Sacred Heart teaching positions are being cut through attrition.
Dolan said some in Sacred Heart parish initially voiced concerns about losing the school name and the tradition associated with it. But once it was decided to leave the school names intact, those fears subsided.
“This partnership of resources and expertise will allow Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s to grow in our capacity to educate scholars,” Sacred Heart principal Kristina Relihan said in a statement. “We are creating the future of Catholic education.”
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.