It was with great sadness that the Diocese of San Jose announced on February 2 the closing of Saint Lawrence Academy (SLA) High School at the conclusion of the 2015-16 academic year. Saint Lawrence Elementary and Middle schools will remain open.
The Diocese cited significant accumulated deficit, declining enrollment levels and the inability to raise funds to stabilize and sustain operations for the high school in Santa Clara. Currently, the school has 227 students and 38 faculty and staff.
“After much prayer and deliberation,” said Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, “it has become painfully clear that Saint Lawrence Academy cannot sustain its operations beyond the current academic year. The painful decision to close the school follows years of losses, declining enrollment and unsuccessful efforts to raise monies to sustain programs offered at this high school. We deeply regret the impact of this decision on the student community of Saint Lawrence Academy, and are working with the families to assure their smooth transition to new high schools. The Diocese has deep appreciation for the dedication of the faculty and staff at Saint Lawrence Academy, and will prioritize them for consideration at other schools in our family.”
According to SLA President Phil Dolan, when he and Principal Bridgit McGarry took over at the start of the 2013-14 school year, they inherited an operational deficit of $1.8 million. Between 2009-2013 annual fundraising for the school averaged $144,000 annually, yet annual losses ranged between $175,000 and $328,000. In addition, over the past years student population numbers have declined by 30%.
Dolan added that SLA began a full advancement program for the school in 2013 that included a new Gala, the annual fund, a golf tournament, and a parent promise program for freshman. Since 2013 fundraising has averaged $420,000 annually. At the State of the School address in 2014, Dolan reported that there was a significant and growing gap between the tuition charged and the cost of educating a student.
“We have waited to see if fundraising efforts could bridge the deficit and put the school operations in the black,” said Bishop McGrath, “however it became clear that the school was falling further into deficit rather than reversing the trend. We have a responsibility to our students and families to provide the quality of education expected from a Catholic school. And we have a responsibility to our faculty and administration to compensate them fairly for their service to the students.”
The bishop added that he and officials from the Diocese explored every option possible to keep Saint Lawrence Academy open, but it just didn’t work out.”
“We did consider other options,” said Bishop McGrath, “including outsourcing the operation of the big school, however these did not provide solutions for the long-running difficulties that Saint Lawrence Academy faced.”
Led by Principal Bridgit McGarry, the faculty is working with students and their families to find schools which best meet their academic needs.