As St. Mary’s High School looks to the future as an independent Catholic high school, keeping the school an affordable option is a high priority, St. Mary’s president Mike England said.
“Our plan moving forward is to remain the school that we are, continuing the mission, which is to provide a quality, Catholic education to all young men, especially those who cannot afford it,” England said.
St. Mary’s High School reached an agreement with the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Marianist Province of the United States that will allow it to remain open next year as an independent Catholic high school. The Society of Mary (Marianists) will assume the role of canonical sponsor of the all-boys high school beginning July 1, and the archdiocese and St. Mary’s agreed to a three-year lease of the campus in the Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis.
The school will take the name St. Mary’s South Side Catholic High School next year, England announced at a Dec. 15 news conference. The new name is a nod to the school’s name when it opened in 1931 as South Side Catholic High School. It became St. Mary’s High School in 1947.
“We are proud to announce our plans to create a new beginning by honoring our past and embracing our future, because we believe in the power of our faith and the future of this school,” England said.
The newly formed Southside Education Collaborative will be financially responsible for the school, England said. The school has set a fundraising goal of $10 million for its five-year financial plan, with $3.3 million pledged so far.
The $10 million, or $2 million for each of the next five years, would allow St. Mary’s to meet operating costs while continuing to offer financial assistance to students who need it, England said. St. Mary’s tuition this year is about $11,000, and 92 percent of students receive some form of financial assistance.
“We’re going to work with each and every one of our families, meet them where they are — in a number of places, but one of those places being financially, and figure out a way to make this work,” England said. “We know the amount of money that the archdiocese was subsidizing us over the last number of years. We’re appreciative of that. And we know moving forward, now we have a responsibility to replace that. And so for the next five years, that will be replaced by the $10 million.”
St. Mary’s has received about 40 applications so far from prospective members of the class of 2027. While the Dec. 15 announcement was a happy one, it wasn’t a surprise for much of the St. Mary’s community, England said.
“Our community knew we were working toward this goal and making progress,” England said. “We’ve been very open and as transparent as we could be with our families, our community, our teachers, our students, our alums, trying to keep them updated on the work that we were doing.”
The archdiocese announced in September that it would close St. Mary’s High School and Rosati-Kain High School at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Archdiocesan leaders had examined the eight archdiocesan high schools, taking into account factors including enrollment trends, the financial health of the schools and school building capacity and condition.
For the 2022-23 school year, St. Mary’s enrollment dipped to 221 students, down from 271 the previous year. For several years, St. Mary’s has required increasing financial assistance from the archdiocese to meet its operating costs.
The Office of Catholic Education and Formation was happy to work with St. Mary’s and the Marianists to reach an agreement, said Todd Sweda, senior director of the Office of Catholic Education and Formation and superintendent for secondary education.
“We are pleased that conversations between St. Mary’s, the archdiocese and the Marianists have resulted in this new canonical sponsorship for St. Mary’s as they move forward as an independent Catholic school,” Sweda said.
St. Mary’s High School was founded by the Christian Brothers in 1931 but has been affiliated with the Marianists since 1933. Becoming the canonical sponsor means that the order is now formally responsible for the “Catholicity” of the school, said Deacon Dan Donnelly, director of the Office of Sponsorship for the Marianist Province of the United States.
Through the Office of Sponsorship, the Marianists work with their sponsored schools to offer a number of formation programs on Marianist spirituality and teaching as ministry. The order also sponsors St. John Vianney High School in Kirkwood and Chaminade College Preparatory School in Creve Coeur.
Supporters of Rosati-Kain High School have formed a group called Rosati-Kain Forever to work toward establishing the school as an independent Catholic high school. The archdiocese is in negotiations regarding leasing the school property, and a religious order has not yet been secured as the canonical sponsor.
In addition to Rosati-Kain and St. Mary’s, the archdiocese operates Bishop DuBourg High School and Cardinal Ritter College Prep in St. Louis; St. Dominic High School and Duchesne High School in St. Charles County; St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington; and St. Pius X High School in Festus.