Things are moving full-steam ahead for a group of parents and community members who are trying to open an independent Catholic high school at the Bishop McGann-Mercy property — or should we say full STREAM ahead.
The group hopes to operate as a STREAM school, which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics.
“It’s an expansion of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics],” said Mercy parent Kerry Wilkie. “It’s the Catholic school mission to educate the whole child, infusing religion across all subjects. We added arts for creative thinking to get the children to be able to advance in STEM.”
Ms. Wilkie said it’s hoped that the Diocese of Rockville Centre will lease the Riverhead property to the independent school. Although the diocese won’t run the school itself, she said she believes it will oversee curriculum to make sure it is in line with Catholic education standards.
“The Diocese has not been approached by anyone asking to lease the property of Bishop McGann Mercy Diocesan High School for an independent Catholic School,” said Sean Dolan, director of communications for the diocese. “There has been no change in the decision by the Diocese of Rockville Centre to close Bishop McGann Mercy Diocesan High School at the end of the current school year. For more information visit eastendcatholicschools.org.”
Ms. Wilkie added that a board of advisers, a 22-person group of parents and community members working to keep a school open in the Mercy building, is pushing to arrange a meeting with Bishop John Barres in the coming weeks with the goal of opening the independent Catholic school in September.
“We don’t want to lose the students we have now,” Ms. Wilkie said. “That’s what we have to keep in mind. If we lost a year I think it would be a bigger challenge for us to refill all the seats. Even if we start with half enrollment [in Sept.] that would be a win for us.”
The group has a fundraising goal of $5 million. It has raised about $250,000 to date.
Two golf fundraisers are planned, for June 18 and July 30.
Ms. Wilkie said the $5 million would cover 18 months to two years of operating the independent school. During the first year of operation, the group hopes to continue marketing and fundraising efforts.
“We want to meet our budgetary needs to go beyond year-to-year,” she said. “We don’t want to get into the situation that got us here.”
The diocese announced in March that it would close the East End’s only Catholic high school at the end of this school year. They cited numerous reasons, including rising costs.
At the time, the diocese said it had spent $16.3 million between 2007 and the 2016-17 school year at McGann-Mercy High School, and would spend another $2.3 million during the current school year.
Nearly 70 percent of its revenue was derived from tuition, with state aid at 14 percent and donations and gifts totaling 10 percent. Ancillary services and miscellaneous revenue streams rounded it out, according to Mercy’s 2017 annual report.
Ms. Wilkie said that if the independent school opens, job opportunities would be posted and interviews conducted to fill the positions. She also said the group would also look to hire any current Mercy staff who have not yet found new jobs.
“I think over time, as we get a little step closer, we feel more hope than despair,” Ms. Wilkie said. “I think the community now sees the team that has their back and sees the chance of this actually coming to fruition is becoming more of an actuality. This is possible.”