As the school year ends, two religious schools with deep roots in their communities are closing their doors for good — Villa Augustina School in Goffstown and Salem Christian School.
';It';s been another great journey, but with fewer passengers on board each year, it';s become too expensive to operate,'; the board of Villa Augustina said in a written statement. ';We cannot start a voyage knowing that we do not have sufficient resources to complete the trip.';
The community came together to purchase the school when the Sisters of Jesus and Mary decided to discontinue their work in Goffstown six years ago, said John Turner, chairman of the board of directors.
With fewer students and the expense of employing lay people as staff, the school sought a significant donor or an increase in enrollment. Neither materialized.
In January, the board asked for a tuition hike, from around $5,000 to $8,000 a year.
“The response was not as favorable as we hoped,” Turner said.
Tuition did not increase, but neither did enrollment.
“I think we’re all devastated,” said Helen Veins, a parent of two students and teacher at the school that was founded in 1918.
Principal Beverly Broomhall said most of the 126 students and some of the roughly 28 staff members have already found placements in local Catholic and public schools. Some families are considering home-schooling, she said.
Salem Christian School, which enrolled 60 students this year, shares space with the Center Point Church on School Street. The school has provided a Christian-based education from pre-school through eighth grade for 36 years.
School principal and church youth pastor Zach Crowell said the school is closing because of financial reasons and low enrollment.
Crowell said the school has made a mark on the church and the community.
“We have a lot of graduates who go on to be really productive members in different churches, volunteer organizations, and the community in general,” Crowell said.
“We are such a tight-knit group; it is truly a family and we’re all devastated and sad,” said Kim Vogler, parent of a third-grader.
The school closes Thursday. Crowell said the Center Point Church will continue with its mission to reach out to family and children.
“We know the Lord has good plans that might be doing something new and different with that space,” said Crowell. “Our mission will continue to be to bring the Gospel to youth and families.”
The last day of classes at Villa Augustina School is June 20; commencement for the eighth-graders is June 23. The school will close June 30.
The diocese oversees the Catholic identity of Villa Augustina, but does not provide financial assistance. The Rev. John Fortin, superintendent of school for the Diocese of Manchester, said he was saddened to hear the school will be closing.
“I will be keeping the staff and students of the school in my prayers during this time of transition. All of us in the Catholic Schools Office are grateful to the Religious of Jesus and Mary and their generous lay collaborators who have sacrificed so much to provide the opportunity of a Catholic education to so many generations of young people since its founding in 1918.”
The Religious of Jesus and Mary have the first option to “repurchase” the facility. The Saint Claudine Villa Academy Corporation will be dissolved at a later time, with input from the parents.
Broomhall said school administrators are sprinkling fun activities, such as dress down day, LEGO competitions and Italian Ice socials in with regular class work during the last week of school.
“We decided we wanted to be as happy and healthy and holy at the ending as we can be. What else can we do?” the Villa Augustina School principal said.
Wendy Hastings, currently the principal of Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown, is a former student of Villa Augustina. The school hired her as a teacher right out of college and allowed her to gain professional confidence, Hastings said. Her two children are students there.
“It’s hard to put into words how sad I am for that community because it’s such a close-knit community,” Hastings said. “It’s sad that it’s coming to an end.”