LANCASTER — After a recent fundraiser and an approved lease, Mt. Royal Academy North, the first Catholic school north of the Notch after many years, completed two key pieces of its plan to open this September.

“We are blown away by the generosity of people,” Jill Colby, who will be the head of school, said Tuesday.

A March 10 gala fundraiser and live auction at Bellevue Barn in Jefferson, with Mike Kopp, owner of North Country Ford providing auctioneering services, was extremely successful and brought in $22,000, with $16,000 going to the school after all expenses were paid.

“People were amazing with donations,” said Colby.

The new independent private elementary school is slated to go on land at All Saints (Gate of Heaven Parish) Church at 163 Main St., and the lease between the parish and MRA North has been approved, she said.

The Lancaster Zoning Board of Adjustment also issued its approval, she said.

“That was an exciting step for us in moving forward,” said Colby.

Currently, MRA North is up to 30 applications and began meeting with parents last week.

The school will be opening with grades pre-kindergarten through fifth, though more grades will be added in the coming years, said Colby.

“We are going to expand one grade level per year until the eighth grade,” she said.

Financing plans and financial aid are also being worked out.

“We don’t want cost to be the only obstacle for families,” said Colby. “We are ready to work with families, and whatever their budget is we want to work with them. We will offer work-based financial aid.”

Before a permanent building is constructed, there will be temporary classrooms. The floor plan for the modular or pre-built structures was recently approved by Schiavi Custom Builders, of Oxford, Maine.

“Our building will consist of three classrooms and an office with some bathrooms,” said Colby. “It will hopefully be going to the factory in the next few weeks and be delivered in June.”

In addition to Colby serving as head of school, classes in September will open with a preschool teacher and elementary school teacher, both recently hired and all making for an initial staff of three.

Ideally, MRA North would like to have at least one more elementary school teacher, she said. As student enrollment numbers get higher, the school will keep an eye on the student-teacher ratio, she said.

For recreation, students will use the nearby Colonel Town Recreation center and give back any way they can, including by cleaning up the playground and playing fields, said Colby.

MRA North also plans to become involved with the community and partner with community organizations, and the school’s Virtue Program will play a large role in education, she said.

MRA North, which will have a locally governed school board, is partnering with The Foundation for Catholic Education, its financial backer.

It will also partnered in mission with the Mt. Royal Academy in Sunapee, and program offerings in Lancaster will follow the classical education at the academy in Sunapee.

During a Feb. 14 conceptual presentation before the Lancaster Planning Board, Colby said a survey was distributed to gauge interest in the school and about 200 responses were received from the greater Lancaster area, including Berlin and Gorham, and Littleton and neighboring Vermont towns.

On Tuesday, she said the community has been welcoming.

“We can’t thank them enough,” said Colby.


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