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Private school in Hopkinton busily preparing for 1st class

Union Leader Correspondent

August 15. 2012 12:56AM

HOPKINTON - Beech Hill School, a new private middle school in Hopkinton, opens its doors to students this year in the same location as the old Hopkinton Independent School.

As the days grow short until the start on Aug. 28, the staff at the school are preparing to welcome students into their new classrooms.

The Beech Hill School, a private independent middle school, will welcome its first class during an orientation barbecue Aug. 28.

The brainchild of Emily Ricard, a businesswoman from New York who came to New Hampshire to find a new way of life after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Beech Hill School aims to make the transition from elementary school to high school a smooth, but challenging, ride.

The now defunct Hopkinton Independent School, which closed its doors Jan. 5, 2010, failed to make payroll and owed teachers back wages in the amount of $20,000.

But other than residing in the building formerly used by the Hopkinton Independent School, there is no connection between the two institutions.

Ricard has brought together a board of directors with knowledge and experience in administering and working for private and independent schools and has hired Richard Johnson, the former dean of student life at the Tilton School in Tilton, to serve as the head of school.

Johnson said that great strides have been made getting the staff and the school ready for opening day on Aug. 29, but there's still more to do.

'Whether we have three days or three months it won't be enough time,' he said. 'But we're so excited to get the kids in here and learning.'

Johnson said that the four teachers who will teach the students all have great credentials and a high level of enthusiasm.

'The faculty is just phenomenal,' said Johnson. 'We have such an incredible group of teachers.'

The Beech Hill School is designed to teach a small class - no more than 80 - of sixth- and seventh-graders the first year in an intimate setting that allows for the focus to be on reaching the individual student, encouraging academic excellence and promoting creative thinking.

Ricard said that with programs being cut at public schools, and a lot of classroom time being devoted to testing, middle-schoolers who are struggling with the transition between being children and teenagers can easily fall through the cracks.

Next year, the Beech Hill School may expand to include eighth grade, but for this year the priority is to ensure people both within the school and those watching from outside have a chance to see the dreams of Ricard become reality.

Though the school year begins soon, there are still places available for families looking for a new education experience, said Johnson, and enrollment will remain open into the school year for parents who are on the fence and want to see how the first few weeks go.

In the meantime, finishing touches are being put on the building and the curriculum, Johnson said, and excitement is certainly in the air.

'We can't wait to move from 'we will' to 'we are,' ' he said.

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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at

Education Hopkinton

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