Order has buyer for Catherine McAuley High School property in Portland

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PORTLAND — Catherine McAuley High School may have to find a new home in the next five years because there is a potential buyer for the school property.

The property at 631 Stevens Ave. is owned by the Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community, which recently confirmed to the McAuley board of trustees that a potential buyer has emerged.

Head of School Kathryn Barr on Monday said the property has been for sale for more than 10 years, and the Sisters of Mercy convent, which they call the “Mother House,” has been partially empty for the same amount of time.

“I know (the sisters) are in conversations, they have somebody in mind who is interested in the property,” Barr said. “We have been leasing the property for as long as we’ve been here.”

Barr said that even if the land is sold, it doesn’t mean McAuley will necessarily have to find a new home. She said the school’s lease runs for another five years.

“This lets us think ‘Do we want to expand, do we want to renovate, or do we want to look at new locations?'” Barr said.

Neither the buyer’s identity nor the potential sale price was announced. Angela Gaffney, communications director for the Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community in Cumberland, Rhode Island, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The McAuley board established a Campus Committee, which includes eight community experts in educational, architectural and design, to assess and advise on the school’s present and future needs, according to a press release.

The committee will consider renovations and expansions to the school, or alternate locations.

The Sisters of Mercy have worked with the school to ensure it will remain in its current location for at least five more years, and possibly more, according to the school’s statement. During this time, the Campus Committee and trustees will look at all options and develop a long-term campus plan.

“We’re just excited to keep looking towards the future,” Barr said.

The school also partnered with St. Joseph’s College to explore ways to further engage in mutually beneficial activities, according to the press release. Barr will be a co-convener of this initiative with Sister Kathleen Sullivan, a St. Joseph’s vice president.

“We have a long history together,” Barr said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what comes forward with two institutions.”

McAuley, which has nearly 150 students, is the only single-sex high school left in Maine. The Roman Catholic private school is on 12 acres in Deering Center, next to Baxter Woods.

The Sisters of Mercy established the school in 1969 in the merger of two separate all-girls schools, St. Joseph’s Academy and Cathedral High School. The merged school was named after the founder of the Sisters of Mercy.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.