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Phase One of Catholic School Project Announced

February 15, 2022

St. Elizabeth Seton School to close, families will be shepherded to Saint Mary Academy in Dover

(MANCHESTER, NH) - Today, the Diocese of Manchester Catholic School Superintendent David A. Thibault, announced the closure of St. Elizabeth Seton School in Rochester, while establishing a plan to have the school community join the nearby Saint Mary Academy in Dover. In a letter to each school community, Mr. Thibault stated, “As part of a phased plan to unify, invigorate, and uplift Catholic education in the area, St. Elizabeth Seton School will close the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. The school’s ongoing deficit budget and forbidding financial picture, persistent enrollment struggles in the midst of a state-wide enrollment boom, aging and too-large-to-maintain facility, make it impractical to continue operations beyond this year. Every SES family currently enrolled and soon-to-be-enrolled will be welcomed at Saint Mary Academy in Dover over the coming months in preparation for next school year.”

Discussions surrounding both schools have been underway since early 2021, when leaders and members of the school community gathered to address challenges and seek out new opportunities for Catholic education to thrive in the tri-city. Statewide, enrollment in Catholic schools has surged, up 6.2% this year alone. Last year, the diocese initiated the unification of three Catholic schools in Nashua into Saint Christopher Academy, which is now the largest Catholic elementary school in the state at 508 students.

The current building which houses Saint Mary Academy in the heart of downtown Dover, will welcome all students beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Although the historic building is in need of long-term capital improvements, Thibault stated that the school’s operations and current enrollment is healthy, “making it the ideal site for both communities to unify as one.”

A new Head of School has been named to oversee the transition and establish a long-term strategic plan. Mrs. Brandy Houle, current principal at Saint Benedict Academy in Manchester, will formally assume the role July 1, but will work closely with families, faculty, and staff from both schools in the coming months. Mrs. Houle will “serve as the school’s visionary leader and most ardent partner with parents. This position will oversee the matriculation of SES students to SMA, and will then work to develop both short and long-term planning in all areas of school operations,” Thibault said.

Mrs. Houle is a native of Somersworth and previously taught at Saint Mary Academy for twelve years, before pursuing Catholic school administration at Saint Benedict Academy in 2019.
An information night for current parents and staff has been planned for this week. Families interested in learning more about enrollment at Saint Mary Academy may visit them online at www.saintmaryacademy.org.

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The Diocese of Manchester is the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire, serving the needs of nearly 235,000 Catholics. For more information, please visit www.catholicnh.org/overview.