By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – It is a class project that has the whole school involved. Students, parents, teachers and staff are trying to save Saint Mary’s Junior/Senior High School in Worcester. The school doesn’t have enough students or money, but it does have hope. The community has been given some time to try to figure out a rescue plan.

Tori Blanchette is a sophomore at Saint Mary’s. She says when she heard the news, she “was devastated because Saint Mary’s is my home.”

Facing escalating costs and declining enrollment, church leaders have given the small Catholic junior and senior school just until the end of January to raise $500,000 or shut the doors in June.

Tom Olsen is Saint Mary’s principal. “It is a considerable challenge because we just found this out recently and we are just getting this underway,” he says.

In 1995 just about 300 students attended the high school in grades 9 through 12. Today there are just 93 students, but that 93 now also includes middle school grades 7 and 8.

Saint Mary’s is known locally for its drama program and the school still offers a full schedule of athletics. Steve Quist leads a parent group working frantically to save the school and he says the Vernon Hill Neighborhood as well.

“If it is my neighborhood today than it is someone else’s tomorrow,” says Quist. “And we all need to stand together and stand strong because it is an educational jewel that is not replicated nor duplicated anywhere.”

Student David Lech says, “I hope the school stays open, I hope I can graduate from here….I love it here.”

In the past ten days school leaders say they have raised $25,000 towards that goal of a half a million.

Still a long shot, but there is still time on the clock.

Statement from Bishop McManus
Given the surge of interest by alumni, family and friends in keeping the school open with support for increased enrollment and financial resources, I have asked Father Stachura to allow a 75 day period for discussions to ensue in order to determine if a viable plan can be developed. If by the end of Catholic Schools Week in late January a viable plan cannot be developed to raise sufficient funds from outside the parish and increase the enrollment to make the school viable, then the closing needs to proceed in order to allow sufficient time to enroll students into other Catholic Schools in the city.



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