MIDDLETOWN — A Catholic high school that saved itself from closure in 2015 will shut down at the end of the current academic year due to a sharp decline in enrollment and a large debt.

In a letter explaining the decision, the school which opened in 1961 said its enrollment has plummeted from 300 in 2018 to the current 220.

“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," the letter read.

Over 100 Catholic schools have closed in New Jersey over the past 20 years, including Holy Innocents School in Neptune and Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton.  Mother Seton Academy in Howell is closing at the end of this school year.

Mater Dei Seraphs banner in 2015
Mater Dei Seraphs banner in 2015 (Gellman Images via YouTube)

School Saved in 2015

Mater Dei was on the chopping block in 2015 until a group of parents and supporters raised $1.5 million to continue operations an independent 501(c) nonprofit corporation. Among those making donations was former NBC and MSNBC anchor Brian Williams, a Mater Dei alum and Middletown native who donated $50,000

The school said that despite its efforts to create new sports and high-quality academic programs the pandemic exacerbated declines in fundraising leading to growing debt.

The Seraphs football team hired former Rutgers standout and NFL defensive lineman Dino Mangiero as head coach in 2016. The team went on to win three division titles and reached two additional NJSIAA state championship games. The football program was suspended for the 2021 year.

Reporting by Bob Badders of the Shore Sports Network was used in this report.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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