CHESTERFIELD — A troubled private school founded by developer Paul McKee in 2007 will close in June after dwindling to 23 students.
Barat Academy, the last coeducational Catholic high school in St. Louis County, will continue to offer international and online courses after shuttering its campus at 17815 Wild Horse Creek Road.
“The COVID pandemic taught educators a great deal about the industrial age model of education and inspired new models of education that better match today’s students and prepare them far better for careers in a fast-changing world,” said Debby Watson, Barat Academy president, in a statement. “Our decade of experience in delivering both in-person and virtual education to students all over the world gives us a jumpstart on strategies for success as we expand our service to international students and extend the benefits to a greater array of U.S. students.”
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About 480 students have graduated from Barat since it opened, including 160 international students who studied with Barat teachers or curriculum at schools in Europe, Asia and Central America. A spokeswoman for the school would not say which international schools have contracts with Barat.
Barat Academy opened in 2007 on land McKee donated in Dardenne Prairie overlooking Interstate 64 (Highway 40). The school, which is independent from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, faced enrollment and financial struggles from the outset.
Despite offering free tuition that first year via an anonymous donor — widely believed to be McKee — the school enrolled 82 freshmen out of a projected 150.
While Barat Academy was founded by a lay board of directors, former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke approved its formation and presided over a dedication ceremony in September 2007.
McKee, who remains an honorary member of the school’s board of directors, also spoke at the dedication.
“This is just the beginning,” McKee said at the time. “God only knows where these kids will take us.”
By fall of 2011, enrollment grew to 290 students but Barat Academy was sued for $75,000 in unpaid rent and evicted from the Dardenne Prairie building.
The school moved to the current site, formerly Gateway Academy in Chesterfield, later that year.
In November, a circuit judge ruled in favor of landlord Midland States Bank, which was seeking to evict Barat for a second time.
McBride Homes plans to buy the property to build single family homes, Chesterfield officials said Friday. The sale of the 35-acre site had previously been under negotiation with the St. Austin School, an independent Catholic school in Town and Country.
The adjacent Epic Church also offered $4.5 million to Midland States Bank for the property, said Mark Moebius, founder of Epic Empowerment, which wanted to use the campus for its education and job placement program for 18- to 24-year-olds.
“I’ve never had money before and a bank not answer my call,” Moebius said. “It’s been a real mess.”
Epic Church will host the upcoming graduation ceremony for Barat Academy’s three seniors.