ORRINGTON, Maine — Eric Meyerson on Sunday afternoon presided over the last commencement ceremony at Calvary Chapel Christian School.
“I’m excited to see where God’s going to take you,” the principal said to the six graduating seniors.
A year ago, Meyerson thought the Class of 2012 would be the last to graduate from the Orrington school, founded by Calvary Chapel. T he school received an anonymous donation of $100,000 in July that allowed it to remain open for the 2012-2013 school year.
At the time, school officials and students called the gift “a miracle.”
Calvary school began the year with 60 students and ended it with 40, Meyerson said Sunday. There were 15 students in the high school, including the six seniors, and nine in middle school, he said. The remaining students were in the elementary school and preschool programs.
“We closed the school with the same number of students we started out with 11 years ago,” Ken Graves, pastor of Calvary Chapel, said Sunday after the commencement ceremony.
The members of the Class of 2013 were Isaac Joseph Dorrity of Winterport, Peter Bernhard Gorczok III of Orrington, Aiden Conner Hale of Winn, Jamie A. Richards of Glenburn, and twins siblings Dominique Allen Veilleux and Jacqueline Claire Veilleux of Bangor.
The school building will continue to be used for the church’s children’s programs on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, according to Meyerson.
Calvary Chapel Christian School opened its doors in 2002, a year after the church purchased the former North Orrington School on Route 15 from the town. In 2004, the fledgling school ‘s basketball team won the Class D state championship title in a series of come-from-behind wins.
Although Calvary Chapel school always has been small compared with Bangor Christian School, founded by Bangor Baptist Church, it had enough students to support itself until the recent recession hit Maine families hard, Graves said Sunday.
Three years ago, 160 students were enrolled at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, Meyerson said in July. When the decision was made to shut down last year, just 60 students had committed to attending in the fall of 2012. The school needs tuition from 80 students to break even, the principal said last year and on Sunday.
Although Meyerson declined to discuss tuition costs, tuition for 80 students at $1,250 per year would equal $100,000.
As enrollment at the school declined, the church’s home-school cooperative exploded as parents took their responsibility to teach their children to heart, according to Meyerson.
“We have one of the largest home-school fellowships in the state,” Graves said Sunday. “About three-quarters of our families who have school-aged children home-school.”
According to the Maine Department of Education, 4,730 students in Maine were home-schooled in the 2011-2012 school year. Statistics for the 2012-2013 year are not available yet, according to Randy Kassa of Student Enrollment Service in the Department of Education.
Meyerson said Sunday that about one-third of students who finished the 2012-2013 school year would go to public schools, about one-third would go to other Christian schools in the Bangor area and about one-third would be home-schooled.
Meyerson said last year one of the things he was most proud of was that nearly half of 112 students who had graduated from the school went on to participate in some sort of ministry. In the school’s final year, it established the Calvary Chapel Leadership Academy, the goal of which Meyerson said was to make outreach ministry part of the students’ weekly schedules.
“Every Monday, we would get them out to use their hands and feet,” the principal said Sunday. “At first, the staff came up with the ideas. We did work on the campus here. Later, the students came to us with ideas.”
High school students and church members also went to New Jersey as part of the relief effort after Hurricane Sandy, which the principal said Sunday was a moving and lasting experience for students and adults alike.
Valedictorian Peter Bernhard Gorczok III of Orrington said the school has more than adequately prepared graduates to face their futures.
“When we go our separate ways, no matter where we end up, so many different things in this world will be trying to pull us away from what we know is right and from what we know is true,” Gorczok, who plans to join the U.S. Air Force, said in his address to the graduates. “However, every one of us here has been faithfully taught the truth and has the tools to discern between truth and deception.”
Home schooling in Maine
The number of students registered with the Maine Department of Education as being home-schooled.
- 2004-2005 = 4,094
- 2005-2006 = 4,721
- 2006-2007 = 4,571
- 2007-2008 = 4,897
- 2008-2009 = 4,998
- 2009-2010 = 4,927
- 2010-2011 = 5,099
- 2011-2012 = 4,730
- 2012-2013 = Statistics not yet available
Source: Maine Department of Education