CHAMPLAIN-If St. Mary's Academy doesn't raise $80,000 by June 1, they will have to close.
Sister Marie Cordata Kelly, principal at the pre-kindergarten through sixth grade school, said lower enrollment is partially to blame.
"Last year, we experienced a drop in enrollment," she said. "We went from 72 kids down to 53."
"As a result, the church couldn't pay the St.Mary's debt and they had to roll over $50,000 into the next school year,"added Kelly. "This year, we wanted to get it up and we planned to get it up to about 72 and we had the amount of people and then one by one they dropped off. We opened with 58."
Kelly said this year the school seems to be doing better; however, they still have to deal with the $50,000, as well as insurance costs of $25,000.
"That's when Father [James Delbel] and I went to speak with the bishop and the bishop said, 'You're in a catch-22,'" Kelly explained.
She said the bishop, the Most Rev. Terry LaValley, said if the school continues to roll money over each year, but is unable to gain back the deficit, they may as well close now instead of digging "a bigger hole."
"So, we went back with that, but our parents just said, 'No, this school can't close.' So, they had a meeting,"said Kelly.
During the meeting, she explained many parents told stories about their children's involvement at St. Mary's.
"Because we have those gospel values," said Kelly. "Compassion and that caring for others. We have no bullying in our school. No teacher raises her voice. It's just a beautiful family atmosphere."
The parents asked Delbel what they could do to keep the school opened, and he responded by explaining the contracts for the 2011-12 school year come out in June, so the money would have to be raised by June 1, with no more decreases in enrollment.
The parents decided they each need to work to raise money to keep the school open, figuring each one is responsible for raising about $2,000.
Five years ago, the school was in a similar situation. However, at the time, they needed to raise $100,000 - and they did.
"We're at about $8,000," said Kelly. "That was in three days. But, what I fear is what happened before. We got up pretty fast to $80,000 ... but the people that have given, have given. To scrounge up that other $20,000 was rough going."
So, Kelly is looking to the community for help.
"Mostly what we'd like [the community] to see is that we have a treasure there," she said. "If parents would come ... and have their child just spend a day in our school, that's what I would like to see. We wouldn't have any troubles if we could fill up the school."
Kelly said one mother chose to have her child attend for one day, and now all three of her children are students at the school.
"We've had children who say they won't go to bed that night until their parents make sure they are there the next day," she said.
"Give it a shot. Just come any time. Any time that we're there, come and just put your child in the school for a day," added Kelly.
How can I help?
Donations for St.Mary's Academy may be arranged by calling Sister Marie Cordata Kelly at 298-3372.