Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, home to one of Connecticut’s most iconic boys basketball programs, will close at the end of the school year, officials said in a statement Thursday.
The Hartford Archdiocese conferred with the Sacred Heart High School Board of Directors Monday night. The decision to close the coed Catholic school was based on dwindling enrollment. The news was first reported by the Republican-American and WFSB-3.
“Due to a steady decline in enrollment created by the decrease in school-age population over the past several years, we reached the sad and inevitable conclusion that Sacred Heart’s doors will have to close at the end of the current school year,” the statement said.
“This is a profoundly difficult, emotionally trying situation for everyone involved. Sacred Heart High School has passionate students, faculty and staff, and generations of area families have shaped their minds, bodies and souls within its four walls for nearly a century.”
In a message to the school community posted Thursday night, Sacred Heart President Eileen M. Regan lamented a “breach in confidentiality of one of our executive committee members” for the news reaching the students and staff ahead of an official school announcement.
But she said a loss of approximately 100 students over the past two years, and worsening enrollment projections, forced the school to make the decision to close June 30.
“I know that you share with me the difficulty and the emotional drain this is in making a decision such as this,” Regan said. “For every one involved in Sacred Heart High School, our passionate students, our faculty and staff, and certainly generations of families or alumni that have helped shaped what Sacred Heart stands for, in nearly a century of educating families from greater Waterbury community.”
Regan added her administration’s priority is to ensure current students would be able to find other options at nearby Catholic schools and was also exploring a way to allow some underclassmen to finish their education with Sacred Heart in 2021-22. “We will exhaust every opportunity to see if we can make it work,” she said.
This is the 99th year of the school’s operation since its founding in 1922 by the Sisters of Mercy, according to the Republican-American in Waterbury. It moved to its current location next to St. Mary’s Hospital in downtown Waterbury in 1975.
The school is known in athletic circles for its successful boys basketball program. The Hearts have won nine CIAC championships in 12 finals appearances since 1949 — including four-straight titles from 2014-17. It has also won 16 Naugatuck Valley League Championships, including five straight from 2015-2019.
The program recently won 125-consecutive games against NVL opponents over six years until it was snapped by Holy Cross of Waterbury — the city’s lone remaining Catholic high school — in last year’s NVL semifinals.
The Hearts last home loss was on Dec. 23, 2013, 79-76 to Crosby.
The current team was ranked No. 4 in the preseason GameTimeCT Top 10 Boys Basketball poll.
Jon Carroll, now in his 16th season as boys basketball coach at Sacred Heart, heard what happened from his son, a student and member of the team.
“It’s shock, really,” he said. “I’m aware (what happened) at South Catholic and St. Thomas Aquinas (both Cathlic schools closed years ago). I thought we had more time here. Obviously, there is some disbelief. My kids grew up in this gym.”
Carroll said he heard from coaches around the state expressing their sympathies over the decision and “I appreciate them all.” The Hearts spent part of Thursday’s practice discussing the decision.
“I tried to make it a teaching moment. It’s one of those things where you don’t have control of the situation but you do have control how you react to it,” Carroll said. “I expect they will handle this as best they can and make everybody proud.”
The school has also won championships in baseball (1997), football (1968, 1990), boys swimming (six times, last in 2012), boys cross country (1976), boys indoor track (three times, last in 1976) and boys outdoor track (1975).
Sacred Heart listed its total enrollment at 300 students during the 2019-20 school year, down from a reported 364 in 2015 according to figures reported to CIAC.
Sacred Heart’s impending closure will follow that of Trinity Catholic in Stamford, which was also renowned for its athletic programs, most notably basketball, and closed last year.
–Joe Morelli contributed to this story