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Manlius Pebble Hill hits $3 million goal, but what about layoffs?

Six months ago, Manlius Pebble Hill school in DeWitt was in the midst of a financial crisis, in danger of closing its doors permanently.

Today, the DeWitt independent school is back on solid financial ground, its leaders say.

The school has raised the $3 million it needed to open, and will start the school year in September without carrying a deficit.

“We needed to raise $3 million to settle all our past debt, and we did that in less than six months,” said John Mezzalingua, president of the MPH Board of Trustees. “This is a historic achievement for us. Our alumni, board, parents and even students helped us raise the money.”

After a series of financial missteps, which included allowing the school to rely on next year’s tuition deposits to pay for part of the current year’s expenses, the school is back on its feet financially, Mezzalingua said.

Enrollment for the coming school year stands at 310 students, and that is expected to rise to at least 330, said Jim Dunaway, the school’s interim headmaster. In February, the school projected an enrollment of about 255.

The projections are down from the current enrollment of 420 students in prekindergarten to 12th-grade . A few years ago, the school’s enrollment peaked at more than 500 students.

MPH officials say there will still be some staff layoffs, but fewer than originally projected.

The school says it has 91 permanent full- and part-time employees, and has offered positions to 68 people so far, according to Dunaway.

The school originally said it might have to lay off up to 40 of its 135 staff members – but that 135 number reflected a number of temporary summer jobs, MPH officials say. No temporary employees will be laid off, Dunaway said today.

The number of staff members needed depends a lot on enrollment numbers, Mezzalingua said.

In February, school officials said 35 staff members had been notified they would be retained for the coming school year, or “rehired.”

“We are keeping more staff than we originally thought we would because our enrollment has increased,” Mezzalingua said.

Tuition and fees in the coming school year will be $13,750 for pre-k and kindergarten and $18,869 to $22,987 for 1st grade to 12th grade – up about 7 percent from the current school year.

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