A fundraising effort has been launched by a parent in an effort to keep the Maine Girls’ Academy from closing.

Alumnae and supporters of the soon-to-be closed Maine Girls’ Academy are hoping to keep it open, leading a fundraising effort and meeting with the school board to get details on why the state’s only private all-girls school is closing.

“I think we could have prevented this. If they had come to us, we would have done everything we could,” said Cara Biddings, a parent and 1996 graduate of the school who launched a GoFundMe page that raised about $4,000 in the first 24 hours after Thursday’s announcement. “Every parent I’ve talked to was floored, and they want answers.”

School officials sent parents emails and posted a notice about the closure on Thursday, saying the 90-student high school, formerly Catherine McAuley High School, will cease operating after July 15 because of low enrollment and financial reasons. The school was refunding tuition for summer programs and offering parents the option of enrolling their students at North Yarmouth Academy in the upcoming school year.

“The email told us that the decision is done – but everything that we learned at this school tells us to fight for what matters. So we’re fighting,” Biddings wrote on her GoFundMe page, which aims to raise $1 million.

Biddings said she hoped supporters would go to the meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the school at 631 Stevens Ave., and they would be able to show that there was financial support available as well.

“The bottom line here – is the bottom line,” Biddings wrote.


The Sisters of Mercy founded the academy as Catherine McAuley High School in 1969. In 2015, it dropped its affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, citing declining enrollment and the nuns’ plan to sell the Portland campus. Tuition for the upcoming school year was scheduled to be $19,500, up from $15,500 in 2015-16, when it was still McAuley.

Amy Jolly, the head of school, did not return calls seeking comment Thursday and Friday. Board Vice Chairman Bill Smith said Friday that he had no comment on the situation and referred any questions to Jolly.

Enrollment at the school was as high as 200 students a decade ago, but dwindled to about 90 students last year.

Financial information about the academy is not publicly available because it is a private school, and while it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Internal Revenue Service’s online database does not list any financial disclosure forms, known as 990s, for the organization.

In 2015, the Sisters of Mercy sold the 12-acre campus, including the school and neighboring convent, for development. The school had a 25-year lease to remain, while nearly 250 units of senior housing are planned for 7½ acres that include the convent and athletic fields used by the school.

Developers Collaborative, a company developing the property with Sea Coast Management, did not return calls Friday.


Biddings wants to know what prompted the board to come to the decision, and what options were considered – such as moving the school if there was a lease issue, or letting parents and supporters know that financial problems were so severe that they threatened the school’s existence.

“If you told me we can’t work this and we’re moving to a strip mall, I’d say here’s my tuition check and see you there,” she said. As for financial support, the GoFundMe page is a signal that “there are people out there in the community that want to help, but you have to give them the opportunity – please give us the time.”

“It’s the only all-girls option in the state. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And I don’t think it’s coming back.”


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