St. Andrew's School suspending its lower school


St. Andrew’s School will suspend its lower school at the end of the current school year.

Officials at the school recently made the decision, citing a drop in enrollment and a need to review the lower school’s curriculum, target audience and tuition.

John Martin, the school’s headmaster, said St. Andrew’s is committed to having a lower school — grades 3, 4 and 5 — but realized that a review was necessary.

St. Andrew’s opened its lower school five years ago, and serviced classes of between seven and eight students initially. But it was just a few years after offering the three elementary grades that enrollment began to drop, and this year there is just one class of eight fifth-graders remaining in the lower school.

Mr. Martin said a downturn in the economy likely played a role in the decreased enrollment; it costs day students $27,000 per year for tuition. He added that officials initially thought the lower school would cater predominantly to students with special needs, but found that was not the case.

The headmaster said a committee has been formed and will review many aspects of the lower school. The review is slated to take two years; after that time the school will decide how to proceed.

“We are committed to having a lower school,” Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Martin said he and others have had numerous projects upon which to focus over the last five years, which may have also factored into the drop-off in enrollment with the lower school.

“I think it’s fair to say I have been stretched,” he said. “We’ve added a PG (post graduate) program. We have three students in that. We have added a new dormitory, Margot’s House. It’s great. And we’ve added onto the dining room.”

In addition, the school has neared its goal of increasing the number of boarding students from 59 five years ago to 80. Currently, the school has 74 boarding students.

“We’ve had a lot going on. And this has been a harder sell because of tuition. I think we need to re-examine how we market this (lower school),” Mr. Martin said.

The additional classroom space created by the suspension of the lower school will afford more space to the middle school classes. The headmaster added that the lower school facility is just five years old and equipped with Smartboards.

Contracts not renewed

The suspension of the lower school will result in the elimination of three positions, Mr. Martin said. The three individuals included the principal of the lower school.

“They are wonderful people,” Mr. Martin said. “I am confident” they will find teaching positions at other schools in the near future.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.