Families viewed the beautiful new campus of St. Patrick Academy on Mother’s Day, a fitting time, said Mark Schwerdt, head of school.
“We broke ground exactly one year ago today,” said Schwerdt. “Mother’s Day seemed a fitting day for our open house.”
St. Patrick serves children from preschool through Grade 8, with a student capacity of 211. Schwerdt said the school has about 35 slots open for the upcoming school year but he expects those to be filled before opening day.
For the 2018-19 session, the school plans to offer a regular school year, but by the following school year, 2019-20, Schwerdt said it will be a year-round school, offering summer programs to fill what the administration of the school sees as a community need.
“We want parents to be able to count on us for summer programming,” Schwerdt said. “We see that as a gap that we want to fill for our families. Parents can know their children are in a safe, and enjoyable place.”
The independent school is relocating from Austin Street, where many generations of Seacoast families passed through its doors. The new building is replete with all the modern bells and whistles, and it is located in a quiet, isolated neighborhood, with beautiful grounds for present and future generations to enjoy.
“We had a vision when shovels broke the ground,” said Schwerdt. “We wanted the school to set back from the road, with a north/south axis for great natural light. The entry foyer is 32 feet high, a cause for wonder and reflection. Our academic program takes the best of what we see, what we are confident is best for our students. We are anchored on the truth of the Catholic religion and we prepare our students to excel in the world.”
Jim Broom, of the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) N.H.-based public charity dedicated to continuing Catholic education, spoke about the organization’s role in helping St. Patrick Academy become a reality.
“A Catholic school has closed every four days for the past 20 years,” Bloom said. “I am thrilled to see this open, to fulfill the mission of educating and informing our children.”
Jill and Matt McFarland have two children who have been attending St. Patrick School on Austin Street, Benjamin, 13 and Annie, 14.
“We actually live on Austin Street, diagonally from the old school,” said Jill. “I could let them out the door and watch them walk to the school. Now I will have to get in the car, but it’s worth it.”
Jill attended Catholic schools as a child. She said she likes their philosophy and she loves the uniforms.
“There is no fighting over what to wear, because everyone wears the same thing,” she said. “To me, the uniforms are worth the tuition.”
Portsmouth resident Ellise Loughlin has registered her daughter Audrey, 4, to begin pre-kindergarten in the fall. She said she chose St. Patrick because it has a great community relationship, and because she likes the idea of smaller classrooms.
“My in-laws are very involved in the community and I took a tour,” said Loughlin. “We liked what we saw here.”
“I am a little nervous,” said a very talkative Audrey. “I am also pretty excited to make new friends.”
Kate Faust has twins boy, Patrick and William, attending preschool. The 4-year-olds love the school, she said.
“We see this as a great community,” said Faust, bouncing her youngest, Christopher, 1. “I love the teachers and they care about the students and treat them as their own. I like the other parents. I liked the old school, but this new building is just perfect. I couldn’t ask for better for my boys.”
The Most Rev. Peter Libasci, 10th bishop of the Manchester Diocese, officially opened the new school. He blessed the statue “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom,” a white marble depiction of Mary and child. Then, with gold scissors, he officially cut the wide green ribbon at the entryway, opening the way for a sea of parents and children to step inside and explore the new school.