2009-11-06 / Top Stories

'Operation Save Flipper' Moves Into High Gear

Group Wants To Keep Stella Maris Open
By Howard Schwach

A large group of alumni are attempting to keep Stella Maris High School open beyond this school year. A large group of alumni are attempting to keep Stella Maris High School open beyond this school year. By all accounts, there are at least 2,000 of them and they all have one goal in mind - to "Save Flipper" and keep Stella Maris High School open.

The group began to form on Face Book on the Internet and in emails between stunned alumni shortly after the closing was announced two weeks ago.

They chose the name after the school's mascot, and the group grew quickly, with word spreading from east to west throughout a network of alumni and friends.

The Face Book group, "We Don't Want Stella Maris To Close," is typical of the several groups that focus on keeping the 66-year-old school open.

"[This page is] For all of those Stella girls who are upset and shocked and completely against talk of Stella closing its doors," the information section on the page says. "Our hearts will always bleed Blue and Gold forever and ever. Invite all the Stella girls into this group."

The announced closing of Stella Maris High School in late October touched off a spate of rumors and recriminations over the future of the beachfront building, the closing itself and the way it was handled by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the order that owns the building and sponsors the school that has existed there for the past 66 years.

"Operation Save Flipper" has developed this logo in its fundraising efforts. "Operation Save Flipper" has developed this logo in its fundraising efforts. Stunned parents were told at a meeting in the school's auditorium that the school would be closing due to declining enrollment. Officials said that the enrollment had dec - lined over the past few years to 300 from more than 800 students.

This year's incoming freshman class, they said, has less than 100 students. The students were told the same at a noontime meeting on Tuesday.

Since that time, rumors have been swirling about the future of the beachfront property.

Those rumors range from condominium townhouses to a juvenile prison run by the nearby St. John's Residence for Boys to a retirement home for nuns and priests run by the Brooklyn Diocese.

None of those rumors can be confirmed, and school officials remain mum on the subject.

One local realtor told The Wave, however, that it would probably cost upwards of $3 million to purchase the property, what she called "a daunting sum for a group of local fundraisers."

One email from alumna Theresa McCann, class of '78, is optimistic, however. "Please be advised that the alumni of Stella Maris High School; friends; family and community members have organized and an offer has been made to the Sisters of St. Jo seph," the email said.

McCann told The Wave that her group has made an offer to the Sisters of St. Josephs in an attempt to keep the school open.

"We can't disclose the offer, be - cause we promised the Sisters that we wouldn't talk about the offer until they respond. We're hoping they respond by Saturday, Nov em - ber 7, when we're going to get-to gether at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club to start the movement to keep the school open," she said, adding that the event had originally been set for Harbor Light on Beach 130 Street and Newport Avenue on Saturday night, but that venue turned out to be inadequate to the large numbers of people who wanted to attend.

"If the Sisters of St. Joseph thought that we would take their statement as a done deal, they don't understand the Stella Maris alumni," she said. "We are going to fight this." Officials at both Stella Maris and the Sisters of St. Joseph were unavailable for comment.

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