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April 27, 2013

St. Ann School closing its doors

Enrollment, finances force June shutdown

St. Ann School will close its doors at the end of the current academic year, citing a significant drop in enrollment and promised funding that never arrived.

In a letter addressed to parents and dated Thursday night, school Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph Parisi III cited a drop in enrollment, from a high of 189 students in 2010 to 90 students this year, as the reason for the closure after 128 years of serving the community .

“Despite the best efforts of St. Ann’s leadership enrollment has declined,” Parisi wrote. “The school’s projected enrollment, with an average of fewer than eight students per grade, cannot sustain the school.”

The loss of tuition revenue would also “compromise” the school’s ability to secure grants and financial assistance, Parisi wrote.

Cape Ann’s only remaining Catholic school has taught six generations of Gloucester and Cape Ann families since 1885. The school had seen a 76 percent jump in enrollment in 2008, with most of those students transferring from Beeman, after focusing money from a new campaign on marketing the school with decreasing tuition costs.

St. Ann School also reduced tuition to $3,508 at that time, down $700 from the year before. Tuition at the school, however, now costs $4,600 for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Pre-school tuition costs range from $3,000 a year for two days a week to $5,500 for five-day-a-week schooling.

Principal Michele Butler directed all questions Friday to the communications director of the archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, but she conceded “this is devastating to our community.”

Donilon said that, even at times of lower tuition fees, the school never hit its goal of enrolling between 224 and 261 students per year.

Also, though an outside group launched a campaign to raise $4.5 million for the school in 2008, Donilon said the Campaign for Catholic Schools raised just over $265,000 in pledges for St. Ann School over the past five years. He said the school never received the $4.5 million in commitments.

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