Regardless of where God is taking us ... we will always be SES STRONG

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ROCHESTER - A message on the home page of the school's website says it all.

"Regardless of where God is taking us in the future ... we will always be SES STRONG," it reads.

After a scare over its potential closing a year ago, the news on Tuesday made it official: St. Elizabeth Seton School, which has been a foundational downtown fixture for more than 100 years, will close at the end of the academic year.

The announcement came in the form of a letter from David A. Thibeault, superintendent of the state's Catholic schools.

In the letter to the SES community Thibault blamed a drop in enrollment in the state's Catholic schools amid a "boom" in public schools and the prohibitive cost of upkeep with the aging building as major reasons for its closure.

"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," Thibault noted.

Current students will be able to enroll at Saint Mary Academy in Dover, which offers preschool through eighth grade like SES.

The Dover school boasts a strong financial picture with a current enrollment of just 214 with room for 400, allowing it to smoothly absorb Rochester students.

Bus transportation is currently being considered for SES families, and SES families that transfer to SMA will get a $150 gift card to Land's End to use toward uniforms.

Thibault also announced that Somersworth native Brandy Houle will become the new SMA Head of School. Houle attended SMA as a student then later taught there for 12 years. She has been leading Saint Benedict Academy in Manchester, for the past three years.

"She has brought financial stability and significant enrollment growth to the Manchester inner-city school through her ability to build community and relationships, enhance the quality of instruction and school culture, and bring a vision for the future," Thibault added. Houle begins her tenure at SMA on July 1.

Parents from both schools are invited to attend a meeting with Houle and Thibault on Thursday at St. Mary Church Hall in Dover on the corner of Chestnut and Fourth streets. The meeting will run from 6-7:30 p.m.

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