Enrollment dropped low enough by 1984 that the school fell into debt that exceeded $100,000. On November 30, 1984 the provincial council of the Sisters of Christian Charity voted to close the Josephinum the next June unless some financial solution could be found.
The announcement of the decision to close was met by students’ stunned silence and tears. Before the day was out, however, the seniors began to organize and the faculty joined in protesting the decision.
Many community members were especially upset because they felt the Jo was very important to the surrounding area. The neighboring public high schools both experienced drop-out rates of 60 to 70 percent, but Josephinum graduated nearly all its students.
The provincial council agreed to postpone the closing if the school could raise $500,000 by May 6. Faculty and staff threw themselves into a flurry of fundraising activities they called “Save Our School Campaign” or “SOS.” This involved phone-a-thons, Bingo nights, raffles, and car washes. These efforts fell short of their goal, but they raised enough to cover the operating deficit for the year. The provincial council voted to grant the school a reprieve from closing for the time being.
In order to place Josephinum on solid financial footing for the future, the Sisters of Christian Charity organized a board of directors in 1985 with 15 members to assume “governing, legal and financial responsibility for the school.” The board cut costs to the bone, froze faculty salaries at the previous year’s level and asked the co-principal to take a cut in pay.
After a difficult search, when the Sisters of Christian Charity could not find a nun within their own order to assume the position of principal, Bonnie Kearney, RSCJ, was asked and accepted the position.