John Bapst to launch boarding program

Posted June 30, 2010, at 3:13 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — John Bapst Memorial High School will launch a first-ever boarding program beginning in the fall of 2011 to help lure more national and international students to Bangor.

Head of School Mel MacKay said the school’s board of trustees voted earlier this month to create the program, which initially will serve up to 42 students in both dormitory housing and home-stay options.

The board’s decision culminated an eight-month study process that included board members, current parents, faculty and administrators. It was led by MacKay and Doug Cummings, executive director of the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England.

The group visited schools in Maine and Vermont that have added boarding programs and found that every school reported improved quality of its programs and stabilized enrollment at a time when the number of local high school-age students is declining.

“We’re eager to make the John Bapst experience available to a wider group of students, even beyond the 41 towns served this year,” MacKay said. “We visited schools across northern New England that have successfully incorporated boarding programs with their day programs. John Bapst already has the kind of academic focus that represents what students and families are looking for.”

Added Cummings: “It is clear that John Bapst could be very successful at serving a significant number of students in a residential community at the school. A boarding program would bring a great deal to John Bapst beyond additional revenue, and John Bapst has much to offer such students in return.”

The school, founded in 1928 in Bangor’s historic Broadway District, is an independent, nonsectarian facility that serves 445 students in grades nine through 12.

MacKay said a lot needs to be done between now and next year, including acquiring property for a boarding facility, arranging financing and enhancing the school’s website to better market the program. So far, a location has not been identified, but MacKay said he hoped to find a building that is within walking distance of the school.

“The fact that John Bapst is following a timeline that has worked elsewhere gives us a sense of confidence,” he said. “For years we’ve talked about how far students drive to get to John Bapst. Providing boarding and home-stay options — in other words, the opportunity for students to get a John Bapst education no matter where they’re from — is an exciting next step.”

Current tuition for John Bapst is just over $9,000 per year, a rate that is set by the state and is consistent with the other nine private academies across Maine. The going rate for tuition, room and board at existing boarding schools in Maine is between $30,000 and $40,000, MacKay said, but John Bapst officials have not set rates yet.

“They will be competitive, certainly, and will include considerations for financial aid,” MacKay said.

In the past few years, the John Bapst headmaster said many private schools have been getting inquiries from overseas about educational opportunities.

“The population is out there,” he said.

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