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January 21, 2020

Catholic school in Winslow to close after almost 93 years

St. John Regional Catholic School, a private academy in Winslow that has taught children for nearly a century, will close permanently in June.

The school simply can’t afford to remain open, said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which operates St. John with Waterville-based Corpus Christi Parish.

“The sad truth is that rising costs, a decline in school-aged children in the Waterville/Winslow area, and an increased demand for financial assistance made it unfeasible to keep the school open,” said Marianne Pelletier, the diocese’s superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, in a news release.

The school at one time taught hundreds of students, and accepts children of all religions and backgrounds. But as the number of practicing Catholics has shrunk in the area and throughout the state, so has St. John's enrollment. Today there are fewer than 75 students from pre-kindergarten to grade six.

The school employs about 20 faculty and staff. Annual tuition is $4,800, while families who are part of Corpus Christi pay $3,800.

St. John will close after the current academic year, which ends June 16. The diocese and the parish are working to place students in other schools for the 2020-21 term.

“The diocese’s Office of Lifelong Faith Formation will be working with Corpus Christi to ensure that alternative programs and ministries are in place to nurture the children’s spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth,” Bishop Robert P. Deeley said in the release.

The Rev. Daniel Baillargeon, pastor of Corpus Christi, said, “We have already started helping current school families to assess their options, including possible enrollment at other Catholic schools for the next academic year.”

Corpus Christi comprises four local diocesan churches: Notre Dame Church and Sacred Heart Church, both in Waterville; St. John the Baptist Church, of Winslow; and St. Helena Church, in Belgrade Lakes. 

St. John Regional Catholic School opened in 1927 and soon began holding classes in an annex of St. John the Baptist Church. In 1939 an additional building was added, and today the school remains on its original grounds, at 15 South Garand St.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland covers the entire state of Maine and its estimated 220,000 Catholic residents. In addition to 55 parishes, the diocese includes 11 Catholic elementary schools, three high schools and a college, Saint Joseph's College of Maine in Standish.

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