WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The community in Waterbury is rallying Tuesday to keep the city’s beloved Sacred Heart High School open after the school announced it was closing due to enrollment decline last week.
You could tell sophomore Rory Sanchez has a lot of school spirit. But, you could also tell that spirit has taken a hit.
“We have a lot of kids that are heartbroken over this, you know?” he told News 8.
Last week, students and the community were stunned to find out after 99 years of serving families in the Greater Waterbury area the Catholic education they were seeking will all come to an end at the end of this school year — one year shy of reaching the 100-year mark.
The school’s president making the announcement in a YouTube video: “We have reached the sad and inevitable conclusion that Sacred Heart High School will have to close its doors at the end of this current school year,” said Eileen Regan, tearing up.
She cited low enrollment.
“Over the last two years, we have lost over one hundred students,” she said. “And our projection for the coming year is that we would lose more.”
According to the National Catholic Education Association, more and more communities across the country are facing this problem.
Over 200 Catholic schools have closed or consolidated during the pandemic. Enrollment in Catholic schools across America has dropped 6.4% from the previous academic year. It’s the largest single-year drop in at least 50 years. Also, the NCEA says in the 2019-2020 school year, enrollment was 1.6 million students. In the 1960s, enrollment was at more than 5 million students.
There are now approximately 5,900 Catholic schools in the U.S. There were more than 11,000 Catholic schools in 1970. The NCEA also says some of the biggest drops have occurred in what it calls urban areas.
But, in the City of Waterbury, where families have sent generations and generations of loved ones to Sacred Heart High School, there’s a renewed spirit to battle back and try to save the school.
A Facebook page with that goal now has more than 2,300 members. News 8 spoke with the man who created the page.
“I felt the need to stand up and make a difference the best I can,” said SHHS alum, Tim Cipriano.
Cipriano says that page and all those members will be used to “rally the troops.” One of those troops is Waterbury City Alderman, George Noujaim, who also went to SHHS and currently has a son who goes there.
Alderman Noujaim says they may organize community marches and rallies in Waterbury and in front of the Archdiocese of Hartford to try and get them to change their minds about the school they love.
First though, Noujaim says they want to sit down with school officials to see if the funding can be found to try and keep SHHS open at least long enough for the current juniors and seniors there to graduate. He says that meeting could happen within a week.
Cipriano is promising to use his Facebook page to mobilize a growing army of SHHS supporters to possibly come to the financial rescue.
“To do whatever’s necessary to help sustain the school to succeed,” Cipriano said.