The last decade or so has not been kind to many parochial schools in New Jersey who have been forced to close their doors for financial reasons.

While those plights got their share of attention and publicity locally what happened yesterday has become a state and national story.  St. Anthony High School of Jersey City will close on June 30 for many of the same reasons that have plagued other parochial school: declining enrollment, a lack of funding and growing debt.  The move has been expected for months but made official by the Archdiocese of Newark following a morning meeting with school officials.

Of course this closing is garnering greater attention because St. Anthony has been home to New Jersey’s most visible and successful basketball program under legendary Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr.  Since 1972 his teams won 28 state championships and four national championships, produced 150 Division 1 players and 7 who reached the NBA.

Hurley has been more than just the coach of the team. he has been the heart and soul of the school which has been struggling financially for years and would have closed earlier if not for his efforts. Hurley worked tirelessly to raise money and recently also served as the school’s President, a position for which he never took a salary.

A retired probation officer, he would travel near and far for an opportunity to talk about the school and why it was important to stay open not just for basketball but to provide an opportunity for inner-city kids to get a quality catholic education. The school did that. Almost every graduate went to college.  Now one of his main jobs will be to try and find a place for the 160 students who won’t be returning in the fall.

St. Anthony could be joined by Marist High School in Bayonne which also faces closure at the end of this school year for many of the same reasons.  Closer to home we saw what happened just a couple of years ago when Mater Dei almost closed but took a different route and has stayed open as an independent prep school.

Yesterday was indeed a sad day for many and unfortunately they’ll likely be more of them in the future.


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