First school in Independence to close its doors - KCTV5

First school in Independence to close its doors

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Alice Barr/KCTV Alice Barr/KCTV

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph told students and parents at St. Mary's in Independence, MO, this will be the last year for the school.

St. Mary's High School opened in 1853 and is considered the first school in Independence, MO. But next year the school is facing a student body dropping below 100 kids, which just wasn't enough to support staying open.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then Glenn Young is doing his part for St. Mary's Catholic High School.

"We clean our own classrooms, we clean the floor, we clean the desks," the St. Mary's teacher of 41 years said.

That has been done since budget cuts led to the school having to lay off its janitors. Now, the rest of the staff is going too.

The diocese said there aren't enough kids anymore to fill the chairs and this year will be the school's last.

"It's sad that a school that has 160 years of history is closing," Young said.

Administrators made the news official this week, but they've been meeting with parents for the past two months, talking over options.

"There's a number of factors, some of our feeders in the Kansas City-St. Joe Diocese have closed. The enrollment and those numbers have gone down," said John O'Connor, the principal for St. Mary's.

School administrators mostly blame the recession for their enrollment dive.

"It's become more expensive to send kids to Catholic school," O'Connor said.

Tuition cost $6,200 this year and that would have had to really climb to stay open, even with program cuts.

"It really is a disappointment that this place is closing. I was really hoping to experience high school here," freshman Jackson Baker said.

For Young, it's the end of a 41-year experience, teaching thousands of kids and urging them to do their best. One student, 35 years ago, told him the motto posted on his wall helped her beat a mental illness.

"And she says, ‘One day I sat up and I thought of your board,' and I thought of the saying, 'You're No. 1 until you prove to be less,' and she says, ‘I am No. 1,'" he said.

It's legacies like the one Young described that will outlast any four walls.

Another contributing factor to the dropping enrollment at St. Mary's is when Independence took over control of several area schools from the Kansas City, MO, School District a couple years back. The public schools are now performing better and enrollment there has jumped, taking away from private schools like St. Mary's.

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