Metro, Top Story, Newton

88-Year-Old Newton Catholic School’s Closure Prompts Outcry From Alumni

Mount Alvernia High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Newton, will close at the conclusion of the 2022–23 academic year, according to a release from the school’s board of directors and the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who own the property at 790 Centre St.

Following the announcement, several alumni of the school spoke out against the decision on Facebook, calling it detrimental to the education of young women. A petition on has gathered 3,548 signatures by the time of publication. 

“We do believe in the life and mission of St. Francis of Assisi, and all-girls education gives girls the chance to learn, and grow, and become the person they were created to be, and losing another all-girls school is really unfortunate for women’s education,” said Mary Kate Feeney, former director of communications at the school and Mount Alvernia ’01. 

Another alumna, Kathleen Joyce, former chair of the board of alumni and Mount Alvernia ’92, said the school lent itself well to creating strong friendships and connections.

“We were a very small class ourselves, we graduated 26 girls, and some of my best friends to this day are from high school,” Joyce said. “We had outstanding faculty, a real, true sense of community, and to this day we all get together because of our friendships that developed.”

The Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception said the school will close because the sisters are no longer able to live on the property where the school is located. 

“As they move, it will be unsustainable for MAHS to continue alone, and the property on which the school sits will be sold,” the release reads. “The MAHS Board of Directors worked tirelessly to explore all options, including maintaining the MAHS community in a new location, if at all possible.”

Enrollment in the school has steadily decreased in the last 15 years, according to an article from The Boston Globe. Membership in the sisters’ mission has also gone down, something they discussed at a forum last month, according to The Boston Globe

Currently, the school plans to merge with another all-girls school, Fontbonne Academy in Milton, Mass., allowing all students in good academic standing and applicants who have already been admitted to Mount Alvernia to automatically enroll at Fontbonne for the 2023–24 academic year.

“Fontbonne is aligned with our culture and commitment to developing the full person, and the school believes deeply in cultivating women of courage who are ready to create their own individual future,” the release reads.

Joyce said she has questions about the sisters’ approach to selling the school.

“I believe the sisters could have been more creative—they could have shown more leadership,” Joyce said. “I believe the sisters could have shown more leadership, and be more creative and could have brokered a deal—a future deal—that included the school, not just the sale of the land for money.”

The Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception did not respond to three requests for comment.

Both the City of Newton and Boston College have shown interest in buying the land where the school currently resides.

This news is difficult for the students at Mount Alvernia High School and their families,” a statement from Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller reads. “We recently learned of the closing, and like any large property that becomes available in the City of Newton, we will explore the options and undertake our due diligence to better understand the opportunities.”

BC said it is interested in the property due to its location near existing University property, according to a statement from Associate Vice President of University Communications Jack Dunn. 

“In light of the decision by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception to close Mount Alvernia High School and sell the property, Boston College would be interested in acquiring the land and buildings for its own use, given its proximity to our Newton Campus,” Dunn said. 

The City of Newton and BC have engaged in legal matters regarding the purchase of property before—namely Webster Woods. 

The city seized the property, then owned by BC, through eminent domain, a legal process where a government can take over private property for public use after compensating the private owner.

BC said the $15.2 million it was offered for Webster Woods was insufficient, and it filed a lawsuit against the city. 

As the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception move forward with the sale of the property, Joyce said the experiences she and her former classmates enjoyed as students make the  school’s closure an emotional and frustrating development.

“It’s such a special place for people, and it provided something that we couldn’t find in this part of Greater Boston,” Joyce said.

Feeney said some alumni have questions about the sale of the land, and want their questions answered.

“We have questions about why, you know, whoever’s buying the land, why can’t the school go into a lease with them?” Feeney said. “That’s not something unusual. You know, so why couldn’t we do that? And the sisters could get the money that they say that they need, they can move on to where they need to move on to and we can continue operating as a school.”

March 19, 2023