Mater Dei to Close

After 61 years of providing academic excellence to Monmouth County and the Diocese of Trenton, Mater Dei Prep High School will be closing its doors at the completion of the academic year in June 2022. All classes, athletic team schedules, guidance and extracurricular activities will continue in full force through the end of the current academic year.

The Board of Trustees made the decision to close after deep deliberation and amid continued support for Mater Dei Prep. Kathryn A. McLaughlin, the Board Chair stated, “Mater Dei Prep is a wonderful high school and a close-knit family. 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. The fact is that we simply do not have the funds to continue school operations after this academic year.”

Since 2014, enrollment at Mater Dei Prep has declined by more than half. Fewer students and the resulting loss in revenue through the years has created an operational deficit that depleted the school’s reserve despite aggressive fundraising efforts. In February 2015, the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish announced that the school would be closing at the end of the 2014-15 school year, in the wake of chronic fiscal deficits. A dedicated group of alumni and parents stepped up and successfully lobbied the Diocese of Trenton and Bishop David M. O'Connell to spin off the former Mater Dei High School into an independent 501c non-profit corporation. An ambitious and successful campaign raised over $1.5 million dollars to ensure continue operations.

Since that time, the funds were fully leveraged to maintain continuity and create new sports and high-quality academic programs. However, the subsequent years saw further declines in applications and enrollment. Those factors and declines in fundraising were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mater Dei Prep proudly stepped up and met those challenges, but the combination of higher costs, fewer students and demographic trends created structural operating losses.

This most recent development caps a decade-long, nationwide decline in Catholic education. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, almost 1,000 elementary and secondary schools have closed since 2009. In New Jersey alone, there have been over 100 closings in the past two decades. Notable recent closings include Mother Seton Academy in Howell, Holy Innocents School in Neptune and Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton, a South Jersey football powerhouse. All of them resulting from similar enrollment and revenue challenges faced by Mater Dei Prep.

According to Ms. McLaughlin, “Mater Dei Prep is proud of its service to the community through six decades, maintaining the highest standards of Catholic education. This has been a painful and difficult decision for everyone involved. 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.”

Mater Dei Prep’s current enrollment of 220 students represents a dramatic decline from over 300 students as recently as 2018. “Despite our best efforts, we cannot bridge the annual operational gap of over $1 million. We concluded that further cuts would only compromise the quality of education for which Mater Dei Prep is known. The steady decline in enrollment, along with increasing expenses and the ongoing financial assistance we provide to our families has made this closure unavoidable.”

Since first opening its doors in 1961, Mater Dei Prep has been guided and directed by the principles of the Catholic Church. Mater Dei Prep has been a catalyst for advancement, awarding over 8,000 diplomas to the sons and daughters of Monmouth County and beyond. Some of the distinctive programs that thrived at Mater Dei Prep included; an award-winning Performing Arts department, a renowned Global Leaders Program, and most recently a state-wide recognized Robotics team.

School administration, faculty, guidance counselors, staff and coaches will continue their commitment to the community of enrolled students, parents and guardians, and will focus their efforts on assisting families to make the necessary arrangements for transfers to other regional Catholic high schools.


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