EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 22, 2009

Derry's Calvary Christian School closes after 39 years

Other religious schools report enrollment dips

DERRY, N.H. — After 39 years, Calvary Christian School has closed its doors.

John Talley III, senior pastor of Calvary Bible Church, said enrollment has been falling for the last few years. This year it fell to 111, which put the school in financial trouble. Talley attributed the enrollment decline to the poor economy.

"You lose four or five here and four or five there, and it begins to add up," he said.

In June, the East Derry Road school graduated 17 students. In the early part of the decade, Talley said, the school had about 400 students from kindergarten through high school. But then, families started leaving.

The school made changes internally to save money, like cutting teachers' salaries 3 percent last year and laying off the school administrator, a role Talley took on last year.

But last week, Talley decided the school needed to close so officials could return tuition money to families who had already paid for the next school year.

"I didn't want to open and have to close midyear," he said.

Tuition for grades one through five was $5,200, and tuition for grades six through 12 was $5,700. Families with three or more children received a discount on the tuition.

But dropping enrollment isn't just plaguing the Derry school. Some other private religious schools in the area said they are experiencing the same problem, although not as severely.

Salem Christian School Principal Tony Long said bringing families in at the early grades is important. Salem Christian School, which has kindergartners through eighth-graders, costs $4,645 a year.

"We're trying to build our school from the lower grades up," Long said.

In previous years, the school has had full kindergarten classes with 30 students. But this year, there are only 15 kindergartners registered for the fall. The school has 95 students, but officials would ideally like to have 120.

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