CHAMPLAIN - The silver lining to a dark cloud hanging over St. Mary's Academy could be in sight.
Last month, Sister Marie Cordata Kelly, principal of the pre-kindergarten through sixth grade parochial school overseen by St. Mary's Church - announced the school was facing financial woes to the tune of $80,000. The figure, Kelly explained in a March interview, was due to a decline in enrollment last year, from 72 children to 53.
The result was a $50,000 debt the church had to roll over to the 2010-11 school year.
Despite efforts to increase enrollment this school year, the school opened with 58 students registered in September. The financial burden rolled forward, paired with insurance costs of $25,000, put the church and - more directly - the school in an even more dire situation.
"The school is in the worst crisis it's ever been in," said Kelly.
The school was charged with the task of maintaining enrollment and raising the $80,000 necessary to bring St. Mary's Academy out of its financial hole by June 1, as contracts for the 2011-12 school year come out in June. That's something that Kelly said is one step closer to becoming a reality.
"We're at $61,000," said Kelly, crediting an outpouring of donations received by both the church and the school. "It's just unbelievable."
"I think we're going to make it," she added, noting she was still cautiously optimistic.
The stream of donations has been intermittent, said Kelly, but it continues.
"The first $20,000 came in pretty fast," she said. "Then, it crawled from $20,000 to $30,000. I thought there was no way we would make it $50,000 more."
However, more donations began to come in, including donations of $10,000 and $9,000, respectively in the days following.
"I ran down to our thermometer and filled it in," said Kelly, beaming with pride.
What Kelly credits most to the support seen by the school is the motivation of parents and community members who want to keep the school a part of the history and future of the Northern Tier.
"We have a very determined group of parents and the parents have spoken," said Kelly. "I guess the parents realize the treasures they have."
" We have to hope more parents realize that and want education for their children," added Kelly, noting she would be remiss if she didn't thank God for His support. "It's a miracle."
(Editor's Note: Several events are being planned beginning next month in and around the Northern Tier to benefit St. Mary's Academy. Keep reading the North Countryman for more information.)