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May 21. 2014 5:22PM

Closing?

Villa Augustina School in Goffstown is seeking donors to stay open


Villa Augustina in Goffstown. 


Younger students work on laptops in Villa Augustina School in Goffstown. The school is seeking donors to continue operations for the next couple of years. (Julie Hanson/Union Leader Correspondent)

GOFFSTOWN — After helping shape the community of Goffstown for nearly 100 years, Villa Augustina School is asking the community to help keeps its doors open.

“I can’t imagine Goffstown without it,” said Principal Beverly Broomhall of the school.

Like many schools, Villa Augustina School is struggling with declining enrollment, Broomhall said. Statewide demographic factors, including an aging population, lower birth rates and a less religious population have taken a toll, but economic factors can’t be ignored.

“I think we’re still rebounding from the recession,” Broomhall said. “Even families that are not returning next year still love the Villa.”

That sense of community is one of the many things that Broomhall has come to appreciate during her 18 months as principal.

She greets students by name while making her way through the halls.

Fourth-grader Lucy Little said she would like to graduate from Villa Augustine like her brother did but she’s hard-pressed to cite one specific reason she likes the school so much.

“There are a lot of good things about the Villa,” Little said.

Teacher Melissa Piet, the parent of a Villa Augustine graduate, said her daughter still counts the people she met in kindergarten among her closest friends.

“When you ask her why (she likes the school), she says the Villa is where she grew up,” Piet said.

Because it is an independent Catholic school the diocese does not provide financial assistance but it oversees the Catholic identity.

The school’s board of directors lowered the school’s tuition this year in an effort to drive enrollment and Broomhall said she has seen an uptick in the numbers.

Still, time is needed to reach the break-even point, she said.

The new tuition rate, $4,900 for kindergarten through eighth grade, and $5,400 for the preschool program, is one of the most affordable in the area, Broomhall said.

But unlike the old days, parents seeking something other than a public school have more alternatives, including charter and other independent schools.

Many Catholic schools are faced with the fact that they either have to charge a high tuition or grow enrollment, she said.

Villa Augustina currently has 126 students enrolled, with 81 committed to returning next year. The enrollment goal is 192.

“We believe we can get to the enrollment number set by our board of directors in the next year or two,” Broomhall said. “We just need help in order to allow us time the time to grow.”

The school avoided closing its doors once before.

When the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, founders of the school, decided to discontinue their work in Goffstown six years ago, parents and staff rallied to purchase the building and continue the mission.

Two members of the order still sit on the board and the nuns have donated financially when possible.

Broomhall is hoping supporters will step up once again.

“If we can find donors, I truly believe we can be successful,” Broomhall said. “With all the Villa has to offer in terms of academic excellence and small class sizes, where we can tailor instruction to meet the needs of every individual student, it’s vital that we do everything we can to keep it open. It is truly a special place.”

Sending the students to new schools in the fall would be like dividing up a family, Broomhall said. She remains optimistic for a positive outcome for the facility, which will reach the century mark in 2018.

“We’re almost to the 100th anniversary of the Villa and we’re hoping to be here for another 100 years,” Broomhall said.


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