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Facing shortfall, Connelly School announces plans to close — but not everyone’s giving up

Grappling with a decline in enrollment and funding, an acclaimed private high school in Anaheim will close next June, according to an announcement sent to families this week.

“With the shortfall in our fundraising and the continued increase in our debt, which has outpaced the growth in enrollment for the last three decades, we regret to inform you that the Board of Trustees has voted to close Cornelia Connelly School at the end of this school year,” wrote board chairwoman Priscila Forbes.

The all-girls Catholic school opened 58 years ago. Its current enrollment is 124 students, said Ali Aceituno, director of admissions. “Ideally, we would like to have 40 girls per class, freshman through senior.”

Enrollment began dropping during the 2008 recession and never quite picked up again, Aceituno said. “Once parents started sending their kids to public school, many just left them there.”

Current annual tuition is $15,900, but about 60% of students receive financial assistance, Aceituno said.

Aceituno herself graduated from Connelly in 2004 and wants her two young daughters to do the same. She and others are not ready to throw in the towel.

“I think this will galvanize the Connelly community and help us raise money,” she said.

Parents of Connelly alumni expressed regret the school could disappear.

“Nearly every teacher Claire had was really, really good,” said Long Beach resident John Burgess, whose daughter graduated in 2008. “The study habits she picked up there helped her get into, and succeed, at Berkeley.”

Burgess added that he respected Connelly for embracing students of all faiths.

“It wasn’t your stereotypical Catholic school,” he said. “There were Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and atheists among Claire’s classmates.”

Seal Beach resident Paul Yost’s daughters, Christine and Nikki, graduated from Connelly over the past decade.

“Connelly offered both of our girls the opportunity to grow into self-confident, successful young women,” he said.

Aceituno said she benefited from attending an all-girls school. Connelly’s closing would leave Rosary Academy in Fullerton as the only all-girls private high school in Orange County.

“Connelly caters to the development of adolescent girls, which is quite different from that of teenage boys,” Aceituno said. “They can thrive without distraction, and then all hang out together at the football game.”

It’s too soon to write Connelly’s obit, Aceituno said.

“I think a lot of alumni and aunties and uncles were unaware of our situation,” she said. “Already, we are seeing people spring forward in an effort to save Connelly.”

Source: Orange County Register

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