Saint Patrick’s School Closing Impact on Pelham School District

August 21, 2015

by Lynne Ober

When Saint Patrick Catholic School, a longtime fixture in Pelham, announced on Aug. 7 that it was closing because only 32 students had enrolled for this coming school year, questions immediately were raised about the impact on the Pelham School District.

“The impact to the Pelham School District is we will have additional students attending our schools this year,” said Pelham School District Superintendent Amanda Lecaroz.  “At this point, we have had one first grade and three kindergarten students register since Monday who had been planning to attend St. Pats.  We also will adjust our start times for our elementary bus routes since we do not need to drop off at St. Pat’s School any longer, therefore, some of our routes should begin slightly later than last year.”

The later bus route start and the shorter ride will be appreciated by the students.  St. Pat’s was a K-8 school, and Lecaroz said that her office had not received an actual breakdown of enrollment by grade for the 32 enrollees.  Some of the enrollees might not be Pelham residents as St. Pat’s took students from surrounding communities.

Last year 113 students attended St. Pat’s, and, as recently as 2008-2009, more than 200 students were enrolled there.  Across the state, school enrollments are in a decline and only 44 school districts in New Hampshire show a growth in pupil enrollment.  Pelham is not one of those 44 districts.

School Board Vice-Chairman Deb Ryan said that the school district absorbed a number of former St. Pat’s students during the last school year and already had a number of students enroll for this year in the Pelham School District rather than return to St. Pat’s.

St. Patrick’s was a diocesan school, and Father John Fortin, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Manchester, previously announced it would not be fiscally possible to continue operation because the low enrollment meant a loan would have to be taken to cover school costs.  Father Volney DeRosia, pastor of Saint Patrick Parish, called this a “heartbreaking” decision, but “with so few students enrolled it would be difficult if not impossible for the school to continue to offer an education that meets the expectations of parents and students and the standards of solid Catholic and academic principles.”

Saint Patrick Catholic School was founded in 1960 by Saint Patrick Parish.  It was originally called St. Patrick Convent School and for many years was staffed by Sisters of Mercy from nearby Windham.