Despite some fundraising by supporters dismayed by last week’s announcement, the Maine Girls’ Academy – formerly Catherine McAuley High School – is closing for good.

The Maine Girls’ Academy has made the final decision to close its doors, days after passionate alumnae and students launched a last-ditch fundraising campaign to keep the state’s only all-girls high school open.

School trustees “are confirming to you, our community, that the Maine Girls’ Academy is ceasing operations, releasing its staff and closing its doors,” said Heidi Osborn, trustee chair, in a letter sent to alumnae, parents and students Wednesday evening.

“We will have limited staff on campus through July 28 as we complete our work to support the girls’ transfers and finalize the closure process. At this point, the Maine Girls’ Academy is no longer soliciting or accepting donations and no such solicitations are authorized.”

The letter follows a private meeting with school supporters on Monday, during which officials reportedly said the Portland school was $250,000 in debt, needed repairs costing millions of dollars and could not afford to open in the fall.

A week ago Maine Girls’ Academy announced declining enrollment and revenue forced it to close. That announcement stunned alumni and students, who immediately started raising money, including a gofundme.com page with a $1 million goal. As of Wednesday night, the site had raised almost $14,300. A group of young girls raised $4,000 at a lemonade stand over the weekend.

Cara Biddings, who spearheaded the fundraising effort, declined an interview Wednesday evening to talk about the final decision to close. Biddings is an alumna whose daughter attended the school.

“I feel like I just let down 90-something girls and every girl in the future that would have been smarter, stronger and more confident with an all-girls’ education,” Biddings said in a Facebook message. “And the kicker of it all is that I was fighting against people that never had any intention of giving us a chance.”

Osborn, in her Wednesday letter, said school staff and trustees have vigorously pursued support from a wide network of potential donors and while they had some success, were not able to come up with enough money to keep the school open.

Officials told parents Monday that besides the school’s $250,000 deficit, repairs and improvements over the next year could cost $3 million to $7 million. Operating costs for the school year, including salaries and rent, are between $1.5 million and $2 million, they said.

In addition, 80 percent of students had subsidized tuition and the average cost is $12,000 a year per student. That means that even with 100 students – more than this school year – tuition revenue would be about $1.2 million.

After the Monday meeting, school officials consulted fundraising professionals and met privately with some fundraising parents, “hoping against hope” a renewed effort could keep the school open, Osborn added.

“We’ve given it, all of us, everything we could, but the conclusion remains the same. We do not have the resources we need to continue operations as Maine Girls Academy,” Osborn said. “And as much as we wish it could be different, it is simply not realistic to expect that sufficient funds can be raised to reopen this school in September.

“By keeping that idea alive through the various fundraising activities that are underway, our families and our girls are being given mixed messages about the future of the school with, in our opinion, no likelihood of a different outcome,” Osborne continued, adding that the girls and parents need closure so they “can move on to what’s next.”

Emily Ryder, another alumna and mother of an academy student, said she wasn’t sure what to make of the trustees’ decision.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words because I imagine that there would be something that could be done to keep the school open,” Ryder said. “I can’t imagine what a few more weeks of fundraising could do if we reached out to the right people.”

About 90 students were enrolled at Maine Girls’ Academy this year. The school has arranged for North Yarmouth Academy to accept current and incoming Maine Girls’ Academy students and will honor each student’s 2018-19 enrollment agreement and family contribution toward tuition.

A school has operated at the site on Stevens Avenue in Portland since the late 19th century. In 2015, the school, which operated as Catherine McAuley High School since 1969, severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church and continued as Maine Girls’ Academy.

As a nonprofit organization, the school is required to publicly release financial disclosure forms called 990s. Those forms are not listed on the Internal Revenue Service database, but the Portland Press Herald has requested them directly from the school.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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