WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury Alderman George Noujaim is a proud Catholic and a proud alum of Sacred Heart High School.
But, he isn’t proud that after 99 years of educating generations of Waterbury families, the Archdiocese of Hartford officially announcing last night in a letter that the school will be closing for good in June.
“Disappointed,” Noujaim said. “They’re supposed to be an organization that helps spread the Catholic faith.”
In the letter, the Archdiocese and the school president cite low enrollment as the reason for the closure.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm that Sacred Heart High School and Sacred Heart Middle School will close at the end of the current school year,” the letter reads. “Despite the best intentions and efforts, it is simply not a viable option to continue operating a high school with an enrollment projected to drop next school year from 249 students to 188 and a middle school from 60 to 40.”
Alderman Noujaim, who has a child at the school now, is aware of the lower enrollment numbers. But, he’s skeptical. He tells News 8 he believes the timing is right for the Archdiocese of Hartford to use it as an excuse to close the high school and perhaps leverage the situation into some kind of financial gain.
“A business plan,” he said. “With the low enrollment… unfortunately with the COVID and the pandemic and everything that’s happened, I feel like now is the time for the Archbishop, archdiocese to step back, and close down the school and possibly get some value out of it.”
Noujaim tells News 8 according to city records, the property that’s home to the school is valued at $10 million. It sits across the street from St. Mary’s Hospital, which is owned by Trinity Health of New England. Noujaim told News 8 the location of the school makes it prime real estate for a possible expansion of the hospital property.
News 8 took those claims to a spokesperson at Trinity Health of New England, who’s based at St. Mary’s Hospital.
She strongly rejected those claims.
“There has been absolutely no discussion whatsoever about the acquisition of Sacred Heart,” said Stephanie Valickis. “We have not been involved in any talks at all.”
Alderman Noujaim and a group of Sacred Heart alumni have been involved in talks amongst each other coming up with ways to possibly save the school long enough for current sophomores and juniors to be able to stick it out and graduate together in a couple of years. A Facebook page has ballooned to more than 2,000 members who plan to keep up pressure on the archdiocese to save the school. They’re planning a rally outside archdiocese offices next week and they’ve even sent a tweet to the Pope.
Alderman Noujaim also told News 8 he hopes to meet with school leaders next week to get answers to these questions:
“Do you guys want to save the school?” Noujaim said. “Possibly break away from the archdiocese? Be a stand-alone private school and find some investors at a newer location?”
News 8 will stay on this story. Our efforts to reach the Archdiocese of Hartford today were not successful.