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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Group of St. Bernard alumni offer to purchase school

    Students leave at end of the school day at St. Bernard School in Montville Thursday, January 19, 2023. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich plans to sell the school and the 113 acres of land it sits on to help fund its proposed bankruptcy plan.The 67-year-old Catholic school serves 400 students from across the region in grades 6-12. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Montville ― A group of St. Bernard School alumni have joined together with a mission to keep the school open and ensure its future.

    In the wake of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich plan to sell St. Bernard School and the 113 acres of land it sits on to help fund its proposed bankruptcy plan, New London attorney Jeffrey Londregan said Wednesday that he was among a core group of about 10 alumni, and other “entities that support St. Bernard school” who last week formed a limited liability company called “Saints Country, LLC.”

    Londregan, a 1989 graduate of the school, said the group submitted a letter of intent to purchase the property last Friday to bankruptcy attorneys and learned on Tuesday that their “substantial” offer has been received and is under consideration.

    He added that the offer is “growing exponentially” as the group continues to receive calls from people interested in contributing to the cause. The initial funds were raised in a week’s time.

    “We’re proceeding on a little bit of blind faith,” Londregan said. “But we know that at a minimum that our offer is being taken seriously by the bankruptcy committee.”

    However, the alumni group’s offer is not the only one on the table.

    The diocese and school officials said last month that they hope to be able to lease back the land ― which has been appraised by the Town of Montville at $21 million ― from the original prospective but unidentified buyer, so the 67-year-old Catholic school can continue to operate. It serves 400 students from across the region in grades 6-12.

    Don Macrino, the head of school, sent a letter to staff and parents on Wednesday with the news about the alumni purchase effort, the same day the school found out about the offer. Though the offer does not guarantee approval from the court and the victims committee, Macrino told the St. Bernard community that the school is “hopeful the Diocese and court would support a sale to Saints Country LLC.”

    Macrino said Wednesday afternoon that school’s mood was lifted once the news of the alumni offer was released, adding the school community is “cautiously elated.”

    “It’s really been exciting news for us that there’s that level of love and interest among our alumni and other friends of the community to establish this LLC and move forward,” Macrino added.

    The Diocese did not respond to a request for comment about the offer on Wednesday.

    Londregan said he comes from a long line of St. Bernard alumni that spans three generations. It started with his father who graduated from the school in 1962, with his youngest daughter’s graduation in 2022 being the most recent addition. He said there are in-laws and cousins in the mix of graduates as well, totaling about 16 family members in all.

    When the group needed to decide on a name for the LLC, Londregan said he thought back to his time in the gymnasium, as both a student and supportive parent, and remembered “This Is Saints Country” painted along the wall. He thought it was an appropriate fit.

    “We’re hopeful that the fact that our mission is to save the school, that that’s going to count for something in the eyes of the bankruptcy court,” Londregan said.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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