Citing a persistent decline in enrollment and subsequent rising costs, the board of trustees of Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, announced May 10 that the independent Catholic school will close its doors at the end of the current academic year.

Mater Dei Prep was established as a new, independent Catholic high school in 2015, after it was announced that Mater Dei High School, which was founded in 1961 and operated under the auspices of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, was closing due to financial constraints and declining enrollment. Under its independent status, the school ceased to be an entity of the Diocese of Trenton or St. Mary Parish. Instead, the school operated as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with an independent board of trustees established to act as fiscal and operational stewards over the school.

“Mater Dei Prep is a wonderful high school and a close-knit family,” said Kathryn A. McLaughlin, board chairwoman. “We have cherished the many years of excellent education led by our dedicated administration, faculty, staff and coaches, and we are grateful for the extraordinary efforts by the Mater Dei Prep school board of trustees, alumni, donors and families who supported our mission.”

According to a press release posted to materdeiprep.org, enrollment declined by more than half since the 2014-2015 school year, when the decision was made that the parish school would close, and supporters executed a successful campaign to open an independent Catholic school. The coronavirus pandemic added to the financial woes. Current enrollment stands at 220, and the school’s leadership reports that the decline has resulted in a loss of revenue and created an operational deficit.

“The steady decline in enrollment, along with increasing expenses and the ongoing financial assistance we provide to our families has made this closure unavoidable. The fact is that we simply do not have the funds to continue school operations after this academic year,” McLaughlin said.

In the seven years since opening as an independent school, Mater Dei Prep has distinguished itself through an array of prestigious activities, including an award-winning Performing Arts department, a renowned Global Leaders Program, and most recently a state-wide recognized Robotics team, the press release stated.

McLaughlin writes, “We are heartened knowing the positive impact Mater Dei Prep has made in the lives of our current and former students, their families and alumni who have been so supportive of our efforts through this challenging period.”

The release notes that all classes, athletic team schedules, guidance and extracurricular activities will continue through the end of the current academic year. Also, school officials have committed to assisting enrolled students with arrangements to transfer to other Catholic high schools.