Fans of what was then Catherine McAuley High School say hello to Sister Edward Mary Kelleher at the end of a basketball game in Portland in this 2016 BDN file photo.

The Maine Girls’ Academy will cease operations on July 15, the Portland school announced on its website Thursday.  

The nearly half-century old high school was forced to close because enrollment and revenue have fallen below the levels required for the upcoming school year, according to the announcement.

Leslie Guerin, an alumni whose daughter Bailey Hamm just finished her freshman year at the academy, said she was taken aback by the announcement

“I think I want to cry,” Hamm, 15, said upon hearing the news, according to her mother.

Because of the abrupt closure, the school said that it has worked with the private North Yarmouth Academy to offer students “an attractive transition option.”

The co-ed Yarmouth school will accept current Academy students and honor each girl’s 2018-19 “enrollment agreement and family contribution towards tuition,” according to the statement.

Formerly known as Catherine McAuley High School, the girls’ school was opened by the Sisters of Mercy in 1969. In 2015, it dropped its Roman Catholic affiliation in the face of declining enrollment, and then formally changed its name in 2016.

The girls’ school had been set to begin accepting seventh- and eighth-grade students this upcoming year — a move Guerin said she really believed was going to make the difference.  

Guerin said that the Academy was the most affordable private education her family could find around Portland and that she really valued the all-girls experience.

“No matter what had to be done, girls had to figure it out and do it,” Guerin. “I’m sad for the community.”

If enough former girls’ school students enroll at the North Yarmouth Academy next year, the school will be able to integrate elements of its curriculum into a new “Maine Girls’ Leadership Program,” the head of the Yarmouth school, Benjamin Jackson, wrote in an email to parents.

This program would include including some single sex courses, focused on the math and science, said Jackson.

Located on a 12-acres campus next to Portland’s Baxter Woods, the Girls’ Academy was created by the merger of two separate all-girls schools, St. Joseph’s Academy and Cathedral High School. It was originally named for the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, a women’s religious order founded in Ireland.

BDN photojournalist Troy Bennett contributed to this report.

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