GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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June 14, 2013

Last days at St. Ann

Party helps kids make most of school's finale

Clouds hovered over former students at Gloucester’s St. Ann School, but nothing could rain on their parade as they enjoyed some of their last moments at the Prospect Street school on Thursday playing street hockey, enjoying a bouncing castle and dining on a feast of hot dogs and cookies.

Today marks the official last day for the school, with a morning session not only closing out the school year, but the 128-year history of the venerable Catholic school. But parents and teachers tried to help students celebrate their time at the historic Catholic school on Thursday by making it fun and memorable.

”We wanted (students) to go out with a bang,” parent Jennifer Fernandes said.

Fernandes has three children in the school, Sarah, 6, is in kindergarten, 8-year-old Katie is in second grade, and 9-year-old Jack is in fourth grade.

The school, which opened in 1885, is being closed due to financial struggles and declining enrollment. The average size of each final class was fewer than eight students per grade, as the enrollment this past year slipped below 90 students. Just three years ago, the school had a high mark of 189 students enrolled.

In 2008, an outside group launched a campaign to raise $4.5 million for the school, but those prayers never came true.

Fernandes pointed Thursday to the school’s close-knit community, small school environment and quality level of education as reasons for choosing the school, and for mourning its closing.

”You got the feeling you were dropping your kids off at your parents’ house,” she said.

Other parents were also saddened about the school’s closing.

”This is like a family,” said Janelle Dombrowski, who has a 9-year-old third grader at the school.

Paul Francis — as well as other parents attending festivities Thursday — said the school’s curriculum, faculty, staff and friendly atmosphere will all be missed. Parents and students bonded at school events and fund-raisers, he said.

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