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Low numbers force Catholic school in Gloucester to close

After 128 years of operation, the St. Ann School of Cape Ann, a Catholic academy in Gloucester beset by financial problems, will close in late June, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said.

Declining attendance had significantly eroded tuition revenue and put the school on shaky financial ground.

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Enrollment declined from a high of 189 students in 2010 to 90 students currently, the archdiocese spokesman, ­Terrence C. Donilon, wrote in an e-mail Saturday.

“The school’s projected enrollment, with an average of fewer than eight students per grade, cannot sustain the school,” Donilon wrote. “We know that this is difficult news to share. It is never easy to have to close a school.”

Reduced funding hampered the school’s attempts to secure grants and other financial assistance, and a recent pledge drive fell well short of its goal.

According to Donilon, the archdiocese does not have the funds to subsidize St. Ann, leaving the school with little choice but to close.

The school teaches students in kindergarten through the eighth grade. The Archdiocese of Boston owns and governs the school, which is administered by trustees appointed by the archdiocese, according to the St. Ann website.

The school building is 125 years old.

The archdiocese is hosting an open house at St. Ann’s on Thursday at 6 p.m. to introduce parents to other Catholic schools in the area, Donilon wrote.

The closest kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school is St. John the Evangelist School in Beverly, 14 miles from St. Ann.

The archdiocese will assist the St. Ann School administration, faculty, and staff as they search for new jobs, Donilon wrote.

In an interview Saturday ­afternoon, Steven Davis, ­treasurer of the board of trustees, said “it’s extremely disappointing” the school will close.

Davis’s son graduated from the school a few years ago, and many other family members attended before him.

“This means less choice for those who want schools with the Catholic faith,” Davis said. “The position of the board [of trustees] is that after St. Ann closes, only a small share of families will seek out other Catholic schools” because of the burden of shuttling students to and from Beverly or beyond, Davis said.

Another trustee, David Girard, who has served on the board of trustees for 27 years, said in an interview Saturday that the school community is “broken-hearted.”

“Generation upon generation passed through that school,” Girard said, noting that his wife and daughter attended the school, as did other family members. “We fought very hard and very long to keep the school open, but it just didn’t work.”

Chris Stuck-Girard can be reached at chrisstuckgirard@gmail.com.
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