JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) --St. Anthony's High School, a Catholic institution in New Jersey long known for its famed basketball program, has announced it will close its doors on June 30.
The decision came after months of consultation with the Archdiocese of Newark, which oversees the administration of the school, and it was determined at a meeting Wednesday that it would not be possible for the school to meet the prescribed requirements to remain open.
Despite what was described as a valiant effort by faculty, staff and stakeholders, as well as school president and Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley, St. Anthony's has been
unable to build enrollment or provide for a long-term financial support to sustain itself as a viable educational institution beyond the end of this current school year.
Choking back tears at times, Hurley reflected on St. Anthony's legacy and the void the closure will leave behind. The school could have raised tuition to cover some of its debt, but officials stood firm in their belief of providing quality affordable education.
"Those of us who have been involved in St. Anthony's -- members of the Board, the staff and faculty, parents, alumni and other supporters -- had weathered challenges to continue to remain
open in years past," Hurley said. "But even with the financial and moral support that we have received, it has become more and more clear that maintaining the school was becoming
too difficult. We have decided, then, to look toward the best interests of the students now with us and help them find alternate Catholic school choices for the remainder of their high school years."
Last fall, the administration undertook a significant fundraising initiative designed to provide a long-term source of tuition assistance and financial stability for the school. However, even after a cooperative effort with the Showtime cable television network that included a series of special programs about the school, the response from potential donors was not sufficient to meet the existing obligations of the school during this current year.
In addition, only 11 students to date have sought to enroll in St. Anthony's freshman class for September 2017, resulting in a projected total enrollment of some 140 students for the coming fall. Over the last 10 years, enrollment had gone from 263 to 160.
This year's graduating class of 36 have all been accepted to college and collectively earned over $4 million in scholarships.
In his half century at St. Anthony's, Hurley had won at an almost unparalleled level in high school. His teams won 17 state titles and four national championships, and more than 150 of his players went on to Division I basketball, with almost a dozen making the NBA. His sons played for the school and followed their father's path - they are head coaches at Rhode Island and Arizona State.
For almost 65 years, the school has been a saving grace for teens both on and off the court. According to the school's website, the enrollment is 70 percent male and 70 percent African-American. Hispanic-Latino students make up 15 percent, while 9 percent are multiracial, and Caucasian and Asian each 3 percent.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)