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

(Continued)

Over the last three or four years, the school has had a slight drop in enrollment. Enrollment was closer to 130 a few years ago, Long said.

"Parents would love to come back, but they can't afford it," Long said.

Mandated public kindergarten has taken its toll on private schools in the area. To combat declining numbers in kindergarten programs, some schools have made changes to make them more convenient for parents. To be more flexible, the Salem school has expanded its preschool program this year into two six-hour blocks, Long said.

The new program allows parents who may work in Boston to drop off their children before work or pick them up later in the day if they have trouble with a typical school schedule.

Some local Catholic school officials said they aren't feeling the economic pinch as much as other private schools.

St. Thomas Aquinas School in Derry has established both a full-day and a half-day kindergarten to give parents options. The school, which has kindergartners through eighth-graders, also has started a prekindergarten program five days a week for 4-year-olds, said Principal Paul Rakiey.

"You have to be pretty creative," Rakiey said.

Mary Moran, superintendent of the state's Catholic schools, said enrollment at New Hampshire's 29 Catholic schools is dipping slightly, but not to the point where schools are closing. Locally, St. Patrick's School in Pelham and St. Joseph's Regional School in Salem both offer kindergarten through eighth grade.

"I haven't seen dramatic changes in our schools," Moran said.

At St. Thomas Aquinas, Rakiey said 182 students are registered for the fall, but he expects a few more to sign up before the end of the summer.

The school conservatively budgeted for 172 students so anything above that means it is in good shape financially, he said.

"I would project we're as healthy as last year, if not better," Rakiey said.

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