Private Education | Fall 2021

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Private Education Open, amid Covid The pandemic had seismic impact on all of education — Here’s how some private schools adapted, overcame and ultimately thrived in the face of adversity


Pennfield School eighth-grader Spencer Mazur works on a drawing during an outdoor art class.

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They opened — and stayed open Many private schools made a commitment early in the pandemic to get students back to class full-time — and they’ve worked extremely hard to keep them there since the Fall of 2020 BY LUCY PROBERT When The Pennfield School in Portsmouth recently held an assembly on their front lawn celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of classes, students and staff, all masked and spread out, were excited. “This was the first time we had all been together in one place as a school since March 13, 2020,” said Rob Kelley, Pennfield’s head of school. “It was a big deal, but also a long road getting here.” Despite overwhelming obstacles for both teachers and administrators, Pennfield, along with many other area private schools, remained open and functioning all of last year, which, school heads agree, was well worth the tremendous effort it took to get there. “We realized early on that teaching students by Zoom was not going to revolutionize education; kids needed direct teacher contact,” said Mr. Kelley. “We had to get our kids back into their classrooms.” While smaller class sizes and tighter communities put private schools in a better position than public schools to reopen, many of the challenges remain the same. “We’ve all lived through this shared experience, and I think it has changed our perspective collectively on what’s essential and important,” said Brian Cordeiro, principal at Saint Philomena School in Portsmouth. “Two years ago we were inundated with ways to add technology into the school day and kids’ lives, preparing them for what’s to come in the 21st century. In the past year and a half, we have seen how that emphasis has taken students away from in-person relationship building and healthy mental health functioning. This has made us value educational experiences differently and refocused us.”


Evie Meko (front) and Hanalei Streuli work on drawings during an outdoor art class at Pennfield School.

Overcoming challenges When The Wolf School in East Providence shut in the Spring of 2020, there was much concern among faculty and parents about how learning would continue. “We are a special education school,” said Anna Johnson, head of school at Wolf. “Our sixty-plus students have complex learning profiles and require significant occupational, speech and language therapy, so being isolated and on their computers was really hard.” Remote learning got them through the spring, but during the summer of 2020 Ms. Johnson and her staff had one goal: Opening the school that fall. “We had to rethink and reimagine everything,” she said. “We knew how important it was to get the kids back in school, and with our small class sizes (8-10 per class) we knew we could space them out and outfit the classrooms properly.”

“We realized early on that teaching students by Zoom was not going to revolutionize education. We had to get our kids back into their classrooms.” ROB KELLEY, PENNFIELD HEAD OF SCHOOL

All of their hard work paid off. “The year was a challenge, but in the end a success because the kids made progress and stayed consistent in their routines, which was always our main objective.” While reopening this fall has been for the most part smoother than last year, most schools have kept restrictions fully in place and in some cases, they’ve become even stricter. “We have loosened things in some ways, but in

others we are being more conservative,” said Mr. Kelley. “Because the guideline for classroom spacing is now 3 feet apart, instead of 6, and unlike last year, students are moving throughout the school for classes instead of staying in one room, the likelihood of exposure is greater.” But by being vigilant with measures like mandatory mask wearing indoors, contact tracing and frequent hand washing, those risks of exposure are decreased.

Praise for the teachers Most of the praise for successful re-openings last fall goes to the teachers, said Saint Philomena’s Brian Cordeiro. “Not only are they extraordinary educators, they’re also cleaners of desks and navigators of the emotional well-being of children and stressedout parents.” Understandably hesitant about reopening after the shutdown,


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School leaders praise staff for hard work, innovation From FACING PAGE faculty members stepped up. “Nobody was trying to pretend that it wasn’t really hard,” said David Tinagero, head of school at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington. “Our staff rose up in ways I don’t think any of us could have anticipated or expected. I’m really grateful and so proud of them. It was just brilliant to see.”

Family partnerships Close and frequent communication with parents has been more important than ever this past year, said Mr. Cordeiro. “In my role as a school administrator, it became essential that I communicate with parents about why we’re doing what we’re doing and what we needed from them. We have had little to no push back from parents, because they knew from the start what was going on.”

See COVID Page 4


A Wolf School student works with a classroom Occupational Therapist to create and decorate a name tag for her desk on the first day of school.

JOIN US FOR OUR OPEN HOUSE! Sunday, Oct. 17, 11am to 1pm

Be a Mountie and you can be anything When you become a student at Mount, the world opens up for you. Whether you’re in middle school or high school, you will:

Be connected to teachers

compassionate, available, and engaged professionals who are dedicated to service and teaching

Be challenged by rigorous academics

high academic standards • curriculum built for you • class sizes that meet the needs of all students

Be inspired to explore

middle school and high school electives • visual, musical, and dramatic arts • athletic opportunities for all students

Be involved in and out of school

a school that encourages you to stay and take part in clubs, participate in sports and cheer on Mount athletes, and connect with friends after school

Be loved in a safe, caring environment where every student is known, valued, and treasured

Visit or call 401-769-0310

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COVID: Schools shared constant communication with families From Page 3 And parents are appreciative and grateful for the effort. “Our parents have been so supportive of our decisions,” said Ms. Johnson of The Wolf School. “They know the difficult choices we make are all done in order to keep the school open for their children.” From ordering food and coffee trucks, to bringing ice cream for the kids, parents have provided constant support in an effort to keep spirits high, and Ms. Johnson is forever thankful.

The value of fresh air A valuable lesson learned from the past year, most agree, is the importance of unstructured free time, especially being outdoors. Saint Philomena School went from a 40-minute lunch and recess to an hour. “It gives kids that extra time to eat a little slower, play a little longer, be outside and take a



Pennfield School fifth-grade teacher Jane Kirkpatrick talks to her class during a Language Arts block last week.

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Longer lunches, outdoor classes and the value of social time From FACING PAGE break. It’s made a huge difference,” said Mr. Cordeiro. Pennfield’s Rob Kelley said having as many outdoor classes as possible is a big change for them and has added some normalcy to school life. “We all wear our masks inside, but outside they don’t have to and it’s so great just seeing their faces. Kids love being with other kids, and the social piece is really so vital.”


Middle School students take part in a science experiment with dry ice led by Professor Gizmo during Wolf School’s summer program, Camp Confidence.

“We had to rethink and reimagine everything. We knew how important it was to get the kids back in school.” ANNA JOHNSON, WOLF HEAD OF SCHOOL

When winter hits, Mr. Kelley said snow days are still a go for his students. “While we are able to go remote in an extreme weather situation, if kids wake up to a day of deep snow, they should be able to enjoy that, and they will.” After-school sports programs are also getting back to normal. At St. Andrew’s, their athletic programs are up and running this fall, adding excitement to campus life. “If you walk by the fields at 3 or 4 p.m., there are kids out there playing soccer and lacrosse, which is something we as a school community have really missed,” said Mr. Tinagero.

Vaccines for all St. Andrew’s, whose population is made up of half day and half boarding students, said their decision to require students, faculty and administrators to be vaccinated this fall has given them more confidence in bringing everyone back to campus. “We thought of reopening as a layered approach from the start, and putting in place the vaccine mandate at this point was a pretty foundational layer,” Mr. Tinagero said. Masks indoors are still mandatory. Although their international students were not able to travel to the U.S. last year and studied remotely, they have all been welcomed back to St.

Andrew’s this fall. “We have about 40 students from 15 different countries, and we are so glad to have them back on campus. It just feels amazing,” Mr. Tinagero said.

Private school support group Many heads of private schools belong to ISARI, the Independent Schools Association of Rhode Island, which they have found to be an invaluable resource. “We speak basically once a week, and it’s been great,” says Ms. Johnson. “We discuss what’s happening in our schools and the choices we’ve all made. It’s a super supportive group. It’s helpful to know what other schools the same size with the same issues are doing.” Looking ahead, Ms. Johnson is optimistic. “I think we were hopeful that this year would be different, but with the new variants unfortunately we have more challenges ahead of us,” she said. “We’ll see how things evolve in the next few months, but we’ve been through this, survived and moved past the unknown, and because of that we feel better already.”

Affordable Excellence for your Child Grace Today. Great Tomorrow.

Visit our website & contact our Admissions Team today! 401-533-9200

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Thinking about enrolling? Here’s a typical timeline While each school follows its own schedule, here is a typical admissions timeline.

August (of the year before you want your child to attend) n Define your ideal school n Find schools that match your child’s needs n Research and ask questions of schools on your preliminary list

September n Attend local school fairs to gather

material and impressions from multiple schools n Browse schools’ websites to learn more about their programs and philosophies n Request admissions and financial aid material by phone or online n Review admissions materials to determine which schools to visit n Create a calendar of pertinent admission and financial aid deadlines for the

schools to which you are considering applying n Ask elementary schools about their test schedules and make appointments n Register for any standardized tests required for admission n Review the test websites to learn about procedures and test dates, see sample questions, and purchase test-preparation books

n Call schools to schedule individual

tours, class visits, interviews, and “shadow days”

October n Continue scheduling tours, interviews,

class visits, and standardized or schoolbased tests n Visit schools during open houses,

attend information sessions, and take tours n Finalize the list of schools to which you will apply n Take required standardized admission tests




Join us on Sunday, October 24, for our Open House for grades 6 through 11 . Register Now at

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Watch for open houses coming up soon applications are due in January or February, along with test scores, references, transcripts, and financial aid forms


November n Continue scheduling tours, interviews,

class visits, and standardized or schoolbased tests n Continue to watch for open houses you may want to attend n Request teacher recommendations from your child’s current school n Start working on applications, financial aid forms, student questionnaires, and essays

December n Continue to watch for any open hous-

es or school events of interest n Request transcripts at the end of your child’s first semester n Complete applications, questionnaires, and essays

January n Pay attention to deadlines: Most

Saint Philomena School OF THE SACRED HEART

Invites you to start the journey today!

February n Don’t miss deadlines: Most schools’

applications are due in February at the latest n Visit schools and/or have your child participate in a student shadow day

March n Watch for school decisions starting in

mid-March n Watch for financial aid decisions n If your student is accepted by multiple schools, decide which school your child will attend

April n Sign and return enrollment contracts

and send deposits May to September n Attend events and activities for new parents and students

Our Lady of Mount Carmel School A Roman Catholic School in the Diocese of Providence

Academic Excellence, Catholic Faith Based Education, Community Service

PreK 3 thru 8th Grade • Financial Aid Available Busing available for Bristol/Warren residents • STEAM certified teachers Low student-teacher ratio (never more than 20 students)

Discover the OLMC difference…Call to arrange a tour

127 State Street, Bristol, RI | • (401) 253-8455





courage & confidence We are accepting inquiries for the 2022-23 school year



P O RT S M O U T H A BBE Y S CH O O L Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Attend our Open House on campus on October 16 Please register at As a Benedictine boarding and day school for grades 9-12, we embrace the Catholic faith while nurturing reverence for God and the human person, love of learning, and commitment to community life.

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5 lessons in Grace under pressure Every school has faced an overwhelming array of adversity — Here are 5 lessons from a school that not only thrived but grew during a pandemic BY SCOTT PICKERING

The pandemic shook everything in the world of education, and it sent even more tremors through private and independent schools. Virtual classrooms were something to contend with in the short-term, but a fragile economy and negative perceptions of remote education were entirely different forces. Would families continue to pay to send their children to schools taking place in their own kitchens? Should they? Very early, the majority of private schools knew they had only one choice, both for the students and for themselves. They had to reopen again fully to students. The Grace School knew it. Like so many others, the K-8 school in Providence reopened to students last September and has stayed open every day since. Though some families opted for remote learning last year (many for medical reasons), the classrooms were open to all students if they chose that option. But what about the “value” of an education under such strange circumstances — with masks and stable pods, with no field trips, no outside visitors or really anything once considered “normal”? Like so many of its peers, The Grace School not only maintained its enrollment, it grew. It opened this month with a 13 percent growth in the student population. There are many lessons of how and why schools like Grace not only persevered but thrived under adverse conditions. Here are a few of them …

Learn quickly The Grace School had smart boards in every classroom and a robust technology platform before Covid. But it also ramped up the platform quickly.

A fourth-grade student and teacher work together at The Grace School. “We invested in Web cams, head sets and microphones,” said Head of School Heather Boccanfusco, describing the first days of reopening last fall, when teachers were simultaneously teaching a cohort of students sitting in front of them and a cohort Zooming in from home. “We invented the ‘Mute Mute,’ ” she laughed, describing the uniquely Grace term for making sure both the computer and the microphone were muted to avoid distracting feedback when multiple Zoom sessions were taking place in the same classroom. “Our teachers showed amazing flexibility,” Ms. Boccanfusco said.

Keep kids engaged The Grace teachers worked extremely hard to engage students in learning. This was even more difficult because of

the school’s unique model, which is a fully inclusive environment, blending special education students with typical peers in every classroom. “I’m very proud of our teachers and how they kept our students engaged,” Ms. Boccanfusco said. “It really was a reflective practice, across the entire year, to figure out the best ways to engage the kids.”

Communicate constantly The Grace administration and educators also communicate frequently with their families. That happened throughout the spring and summer of 2020, so that when it was time to reopen their doors, families knew exactly what to expect. “We had open communication with the families. We communicated with them constantly from March 13 to the

reopening of school, letting them know at every step what was going on,” Ms. Boccanfusco said. And they keep communicating all school year. If distance students needed to log off for a break, teachers maintained a dialogue with the parents. If students were anxious about Covid or the protocols, they provided social stories and resource guides for every situation.

Good ideas are worth sharing The communication happens internally, too. In staff meetings or around the proverbial water cooler, Grace teachers and therapists are constantly sharing ideas about what’s working in the classroom, what’s working for the students. “Our teachers are amazing at sharing


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Kids need time just to talk, socialize, have fun From FACING PAGE ideas,”Ms. Boccanfusco said. “At the end of last year, we did a survey of all things we did that worked well and we wanted to keep … A surprisingly long list of things that came out of it, things we never thought we would be doing.”

Kids need kid time One of the unique lessons of Covid has been the value of simply being social. “We build in socialization time each week for our students — time set aside just so they can socialize,” Ms. Boccanfusco said. “It might be a structured game or activity, or it might be time to just talk with each other and connect.” Grace learned that its students craved time like this. “So many of our students are dependent on facial expressions, or body movement, or human interaction,” she

See LESSONS Page 10

Reading and writing buddies in the K-1 classroom at The Grace School spend time together outside.

The best part of going to School One?

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LESSONS: Kids need time just to talk, socialize, have fun From Page 9 said. The head of school is proud of all her school accomplished since reopening their doors a year ago. Not surprisingly, she’s proud of the team that made it happen. “I can’t say enough about the teachers, the therapists, the teacher assistants … They’re so resilient, and they always keep the students at the center of what they do. It’s natural for all of us to be focused on, ‘What about me?’ They don’t do that. They focus on, ‘What’s important to my students? What can I do for them? How can I keep them safe?’ “They’re absolute rock stars on a daily basis … They’ve really knocked it out of the park, keeping our kids engaged and learning.” Grace School students spread out for some outdoor learning time.

Discover a school as unique as your child

the Wolf


Private K-8 Special Education School | Financial Aid Available |

Join us on October 24th for our Fall Open House!

Private Education Guide 2021 Page 11

The many benefits of arts education Research shows that the arts can help children develop physically, emotionally and socially Why does art matter? This is a question that has given philosophers and artists food for thought for centuries. It’s also been a leading question in many school districts when budget cuts have forced school administrators to put various curricula on the chopping block. Very often arts programs are the first to be cut. From their earliest years, many children communicate and learn through artistic expression. Songs help them learn words and repetition to develop speech and reading skills. Drawing, painting and crafting helps to solidify motor skills. Though 88 percent of Americans consider the arts part of a well-rounded education, an American for the Arts public opinion survey found that the percentage of students receiving arts education has shrunk dramatically over the last few decades. Houston’s Arts Access Initiative, in conjunction with Houston Education Research Consortiums, found a substantial increase in arts educational experiences had remarkable effects on students’ academic, social and emotional outcomes. Students who participated in arts education experienced a 3.6 percent reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in students’ compassion for others. Compassion translated into wanting to help people who were treated badly and being more conscious of how other people feel. The Nation’s Report Card, the largest ongoing assessment of what students in the United States know and can do, shows that American students continue to score lower than many of their peers in Europe and Asia. Seeking to improve per-

The arts are an important component of students’ overall education. formance in reading and math may be as simple as including arts education. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education say that instruction becomes more effective when educators integrate creative activities. Encouraging creativity and imagination across all disciplines can help shine light on new concepts and help students discover connections and innovative ideas. To bolster support of arts in the classroom, parents and educators can point out the following benefits of arts education.

offer outlets for all types of skills.

Improves academic performance A report by Americans for the Arts indicates young people who regularly participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than non-participants.

Develops motor skills Arts helps foster motor skills, which are essential for writing letters and words, playing musical instruments, using paintbrushes, and much more.

Increases creativity

Helps one appreciate numeracy

The arts let students express themselves in different ways and

Art involves patterns and problem solving. Learning these skills

translates into many different disciplines, including mathematics.

May accelerate brain development Bright Horizons, a U.S.–based child care provider, reports learning to play an instrument has been found to improve mathematical learning, boost memory and lead to improved academic scores. The benefits of arts in the classroom cannot be ignored. The arts encourage students to utilize many skills that translate to various subjects. 24/7

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Avg. class size


Open House

All Saints STEAM Academy PK-8 135 15 915 West Main Road $5,400 to $7,800 Middletown 401/848-4300

Virtual open house on website.

Antioch School PK-8 90 10 618 Rock St., Fall River $4,700 to $5,000 508/673-6767

Please call for open house dates.

Barrington Christian Academy K-12 200 18 Call to schedule tour. 9 Old County Road Barrington $8,100 to $26,000 Barrington 401/246-0113 Bishop Connolly High School 373 Elsbree St. Fall River 508/676-1071

Grade 8 250 16 $11,500 Nov. 4, 5-8 p.m. (L.E.A.P. program) and 9-12

Bishop Hendricken High School 2615 Warwick Ave. Warwick 401/739-3450

8-12 875 22 $13,400 to $15,600 Oct. 30 at noon-3 p.m. (all boys)

Bishop Stang High School 9-12 700 20 $11,400 500 Slocum Road North Dartmouth 508/996-5602

In person Nov. 7, 1-3 p.m.; virtual Nov. 9 6:30 p.m.

Community Preperatory School 4-8 125 18 $17,200 135 Prairie Ave. Providence 401/521-9696

Virtual tour on website.

French-American School of R.I. PS-8 165 18 $13,900 to $20,300 75 John St., Providence 401/274-3325

Nov. 6, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Friends Academy Early 210 12 $13,800 to $30,000 Virtual tour on website. 1088 Tucker Road childhood-8 North Dartmouth 508/999-1356

Private Education Guide 2021 Page 13




Avg. class size

Gordon School Nursery-8 330 14-19 45 Maxfield Ave., E. Providence 401/434-3833

The Grace School K-8 120 14 1000 Eddy St., Providence 401/533-9100 LaSalle Academy 612 Academy Ave. Providence 401/351-7750




Tuition Family individualized tuition


$14,000 to $20,300

Open House Oct. 30, 9 a.m.-noon

Virtual tour on website.

Oct. 24, noon-3 p.m.

Lincoln School 1-12 (girls) 400 14 $27,300 to $39,900 301 Butler Ave., Providence Nursery-K (coed) 401/331-9696

Oct. 23, 1-3 p.m. Look@Lincoln events held monthly, see website for details

The Montessori Centre of Barrington 18 months 75 303 Sowams Road through K Barrington 401/245-4754

Call for appointment.

Varies by age and program

Moses Brown Nursery-12 775 14 250 Lloyd Ave., Providence 401/831-7350

Call for more info

$18,800 to $40,800 Oct. 16, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Ocean State Montessori School PS-6 100 20 $9,800 to $14,000 100 Grove Ave., E. Providence 401/434-6913

Virtual open house on website.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School PK-8 150 15 $5,500 to $6,700 127 State St. Bristol 401/253-8455

Virtual admission session on website.

Pennfield School




$8,800 to $20,500

110 Sandy Point Ave., Portsmouth

Nov. 5, Dec. 10, Jan. 21; 8:15-10 a.m.

401/849-4646 Portsmouth Abbey School 9-12 360 12 285 Cory’s Lane, Portsmouth 401/683-2000

Boarding: $67,500 Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon Day: $42,200 Call to register.

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Avg. class size


Open House

The Prout School 4640 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield 9-12 425 18 $15,700 401/789-9262 6-12

Providence Country Day



Call to schedule a tour.

$22,000 to $29,000 Oct. 30, 10 a.m. to noon

660 Waterman Ave., E. Providence

401/438-5170 Rocky Hill School PreK-12 300 14 530 Ives Rd., East Greenwich 401/884-9070

$22,000 to $40,600

Oct. 17, 1-3 p.m.

Sacred Heart School PreK-8 160 20 56 Purchase St., East Providence 401/434-1080


Call for details.

Sally Borden Program 3-8 45 8 at Friends Academy 1088 Tucker Road North Dartmouth 508/999-1356


Virtual tour on website.

$300 to $51,500

Call for more information.

Day: $42,900 Boarding: $64,300 6-8: $30,800

Oct. 23, 11:30 a.m.

School One 220 University Ave., Providence 401/331-2497




St. Andrew’s School 6-12 and PG 220 10 63 Federal Road, Barrington 401/246-1230

OPEN HOUSE preschool ( age 3)

eighth grade

Friday, November 5 • 8:15 a.m. Friday, December 10 • 8:15 a.m.

Excel in Learning


To RSVP, visit or call 401-849-4646.


individual tours available anytime bus service provided for select towns

Visit joy • understanding • respect

Private Education Guide 2021 Page 15




Avg. class size





Day: $46,500 Boarding: $67,000 401/847-7565 St. George’s School

372 Purgatory Road, Middletown

Open House Call to schedule a tour.

St. Luke School PS-8 225 20 10 Waldron Ave., Barrington 401/246-0990

$6,500 to $9,000 Call for more information.

St. Margaret School PK-8 200 20 42 Bishop Ave., Rumford 401/434-2338

$6,400 to $7,400

Call for more information.

St. Mary Academy Bay View PK-12 500 18 $7,500 to $16,600 3070 Pawtucket Ave. (all girls) Riverside 401/434-0113

Nov. 14, 1-3 p.m..

St. Michael’s Country Day  PS-8 200 12 $15,500 to $29,300 180 Rhode Island Ave. Newport 401/849-5970

Call for details.

St. Philomena School PK-8 430 20 324 Cory’s Lane Portsmouth 401/683-0268

$4,000 to $10,000

Call to schedule a tour.

St. Raphael Academy 9-12 500 18 $13,600 Oct. 3, noon-3 p.m. 123 Walcott St. Pawtucket 401/723-8100 The Wheeler School Nursery-12 800 12 216 Hope St. Providence 401/421-8100

$35,600 to $40,300

Oct. 23, 9 a.m. to noon.

The Wolf School K-8 60 8 215 Ferris Ave., East Providence 401/432-9940

Call for more info

Virtual open house Oct. 24, 1-3 p.m.

Page 16 Private Education Guide 2021

Educating and empowering young women since 1874

Join Us for

Open House

Sunday, November 14th at 12pm Pre-register at

All Girls. Catholic. Independent. College Prep. PreSchool to Grade 12. Riverside, RI 401-434-0113

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