OK, so I've been thinking about this since the hammer dropped and here's my $.02 on this issue. As a Middletown homeowner, taxpayer and St. Mary's parishioner, I completely support having all possible high school options being available, including those providing a Catholic education for those of us who choose to avail themselves of that option. It makes the community stronger and more desirable from all aspects, including property values, educational choice and overall benefit to the community and its values.
But any business, especially a non-profit, cannot run at $1M annual deficit. I hope a way out can be found and Mater Dei can survive. In a free market, however, if that's not the case, then I don't see an alternative to closing.
Rather than just shut the doors on the current student body, a creative solution that protects them to the extent possible is in order. The first thing that popped into my mind, and others I've spoken with, when I heard Mater Dei was closing, was some kind of arrangement with Trinity Hall.
Trinity Hall needs and wants a permanent facility, and should Mater Dei not be saved, there is a ready-made campus for them to call home. Rather than build new, St. Mary's could sell or lease the Mater Dei portion of the property to Trinity Hall who could dedicate their considerable resources to renovate and update the existing facility rather than build anew. Seems win-win to me. Classroom space, ball fields and a gym at the ready.
As a condition of the sale or lease, figure out a way for Trinity Hall to temporarily accommodate the current Mater Dei Prep students through their graduation, at which time Trinity Hall becomes a full time girls school. No more applications accepted after this year for Mater Dei Prep. I know the devil is in the details (can I say that about a Catholic school?) but I'm SURE there are plenty of talented M&A (merger and acquisition) professionals associated with both organizations that could make this happen for the common good. "MDP @ TH" doesn't sound that bad for a couple of years.
If you can't accommodate the Mater Dei Prep guys, then at least it becomes an option for the girls. If, somehow, you can give all the Mater Dei Prep kids continuity and a softer landing, that would be something all could be proud of. Maybe grandfather Mater Dei Prep tuitions or give parents the option to split the difference.
From the selfish perspective as a Middletown taxpayer and St. Mary's parishioner, I'd much rather see this happen than to see the Mater Dei Prep facility shuttered and unused while seeing my tax dollars used for legal fees in the ongoing opposition to Trinity Hall developing a new facility elsewhere in town.
Fr. Jeff, I'd be happy to sit on a parish committee that explores this or similar options.
God Bless the children....
Christopher J. Bonin