Low enrollment prompts closure plans for Mother Seton Academy

HOWELL – Citing persistent enrollment challenges, rising costs and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the co-directors of Mother Seton Academy in Howell have announced that the pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school will close on June 30 after three years of operation.

The Diocese of Trenton announced the news in a press release issued Jan. 7.

According to the press release, in a letter addressing the academy’s families, educators and staff, the pastors of the school’s two sponsoring parishes – Father John P. Bambrick of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, and Father Peter J. Alindogan of St. Veronica Parish, Howell – wrote, “As co-directors of Mother Seton Academy, we write to you today to announce a sad, but unavoidable decision about the future of our school.

“After careful analysis of enrollment and financial challenges, consultation with advisors at the parish and diocesan levels, and prayerful discernment of any available options, we must formally announce the closing of Mother Seton Academy at the end of the present school year.”

Mother Seton Academy was established in September 2019 after St. Aloysius School in Jackson and St. Veronica School in Howell were merged. The two schools together had more than 300 students and the new Mother Seton Academy operating on one campus was expected to consolidate expenses and help to ensure the school’s future viability, according to the press release.

However, the pastors reported, enrollment in the new merged school declined each year and has now reached a low of 126 children in grades 1-8.

This enrollment level falls below widely recognized benchmarks for academic and financial sustainability of all Catholic schools, according to the press release.

As a result of insufficient enrollment, Mother Seton Academy has incurred a deficit of $140,000 as of September 2021, despite a subsidy from the Diocese of Trenton of more than $250,000 over the last two years and additional funding from the two sponsoring parishes.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, most especially the shutdown of churches and the resulting loss of revenue for both parishes, St. Aloysius Parish and St. Veronica Parish are unable to cover more of the school’s expenses, according to the press release.

After consultation with both parish Finance Councils and diocesan officials, Bambrick and Alindogan presented their recommendation to close the school to Bishop David M. O’Connell, which he accepted.

The Diocese will work to assist Mother Seton Academy faculty and staff members in planning for their next steps and to facilitate connections with area Catholic schools for students who may want to transfer in September, according to the press release.

The pastors’ letter states, “We acknowledge the disappointment this news brings to our dedicated faculty, staff, children and families of the academy … While we come to terms with this news and prepare for the best transition possible, we are deeply grateful for all your continued help and support of Mother Seton Academy.

“You have given tremendously and selflessly to a legacy of Catholic education in our parish family communities in Howell and Jackson. May God bless you throughout the rest of the school year and in your future endeavors.”