St. Edward’s unveils plans for future: To close Riomar Campus

VERO BEACH — Recognizing economic reality, St. Edward’s school announced Wednesday it will close and sell its Riomar Lower School Campus and move all grades onto its south A1A campus.

The school will also adopt a stricter enrollment policy and shrink the size of St. Ed’s as part of a plan to retire the school’s $15 million debt over the next five years. The wide-ranging plan, designed to position St. Edward’s as the “independent school of choice” for the future, calls for:

■ Reducing enrollment over the next couple of years by 10 to 20 percent from the current 728 students, and then holding it at that level.

■ Closing the Lower School in Riomar, probably at the end of the current school year, and selling the property.

■ Moving the Lower School into what is currently the Middle School on the south campus.

■ Moving the Middle School into a retrofitted building on the northwest quadrant of the south campus.

■ Limiting annual increases in tuition to approximately 4 percent.

■ Reducing the financial aid currently offered to students to a level that is sustainable.

■ Increasing faculty compensation.

■ Negotiating a plan with a bank by the end of January 2010 to retire the school’s $15 million

“We are going to get where we need to go to be that great independent school in this region,” said head of school Michael Mersky, who joined St. Ed’s only six months ago. “This plan will ensure that we are here to serve families and children for generations to come.”

While the school expects to get down to an enrollment of between 580 and 650 over the next two years, Mersky said admissions to the smaller St. Ed’s will become “significantly more competitive.”

As part of thr reduction in enrollment, Mersky added St. Ed’s would be cutting back on the amount of financial aid it currently provides to students unable to afford the private school’s tuition.

“We intend to proceed with the financial aid commitment we have made to our older students,” he said. “But we need to constrict overall financial aid to a level that better reflects independent school norms and is sustainable.”

One part of the plan that no doubt will cause some twinges of nostalgia among St. Ed’s estimated 2,000 alumni is the decision to vacate the Lower School building in Riomar, where St. Edward’s opened in renovated facilities of the old Riomar Club in 1965.

In recent years, this oak-shrouded facility on the edge of the Riomar County Club golf course has housed an estimated 220 pupils in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

After the Lower School pupils are relocated to the south campus – probably next September, but possibly notuntil after the Christmas break – the prime real estate will be sold. “Our hope is we can get in the area of $4million for the property,” Mersky said.

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