Kate Dow spent here middle school years at Mooreland Hill School. After moving to Texas and graduating from college in the Boston area, she came back to Berlin to raise her own family and moved into the nearby Kensington neighborhood because she planned to send her three children to her alma mater. Her oldest son Henry was supposed to start kindergarten there in just a few weeks.
“I am a huge supporter of private schools and I loved that there were only going to be five kids in my son’s class,” Dow said.
Dow, who volunteers as Mooreland’s admissions officer, says only 30 students were enrolled for the new school year.
“There was a lack of interest in the school. That came as somewhat of a surprise,” Dow said.
In a statement, Mooreland’s Board of Trustees said in part, “the demographics of our area and the costly economics of private secondary education have made it increasingly difficult to achieve the level of enrollment necessary to deliver on our mission in a financially responsible manner.”
“They were also having a hard time receiving monies owed to them by current students and it just proved to be too much at the last moment,” Dow added.
“Just the fact, really, it makes me sad but it’s just a very special place for us and our sons,” said an emotional Pam Zinn.
Zinn’s sons graduated from Mooreland in the mid-2000’s. She was devasted to hear the nearly 90-year-old school has shut its doors for good.
“I know that it’s had a great impact on who they are, who they are today,” she said.
Like dozens of other Mooreland parents, Dow is now scrambling to find a new school for Henry.
“We very much looked forward to him attending Moreland and he’s sad and we are very sad as well,” Dow said.
“I went there every single Friday when I was in school four days a week, and after those four days a week, I went there every single week,” Henry said. “When it shut down I couldn’t go there and we were planning to go there for the whole entire summer.”
The school says it is working with other area institutions to help find the students placement in time for the new school year and has begun reimbursing families their tuition for the next school year.
"We've had some parents reach out via email. Some parents reach out by calling. We've had some people come to campus to see school,” said Laura Jalinskas, Director of Advancement and Enrollment Management at the Independent Day School in Middlefield.
The Independent Day School has 160 students, four times Mooreland's enrollment. The 3-year-old to 8th grade program has a handful of openings, according to Jalinskas, and has offered to expedite admission to impacted students who fit its program.
The school will hold an open house for Mooreland Hill families at 10:00 a.m. Friday.
IS PRIVATE SCHOOL ENROLLMENT SHRINKING?
"It seems that in the current climate small private schools are a dying breed,” Dow said.
A study by the National Association of Independent Schools found that nearly half of the 939 schools in its analysis lost students over the last decade, while just over half grew in enrollment.
"I think that smaller schools could struggle with changing demographics and economics. But by no means do I think this is a trend of any kind,” Jalinskas said. “Number of school age children, number of students who would be applying, number of families who are interested in independent schools, that demographic is changing. I think there are different options for parents these days.”
As Dow looks for a new school for Henry, one of her top concerns is finding one that won't run out of money.
"It is a sad thing and I hope that the next school that we choose doesn't have a financial issue and can thrive and that my children can be happy there,” Dow said.