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Renaissance in Catholic education continues

Undertaken by the archdiocese in the past year, the Renaissance in Catholic Education stresses engaging changes occurring in schools in St. Louis and North St. Louis County, confronting challenges presented by these changes and offering new school choices for parents and families seeking Catholic education for their children.

Thus, significant changes at two schools — one in the city and another in north county — have prompted the archdiocesan Catholic Education Office to meet the challenges and revise its approach for the 2017-18 academic year, ultimately for the betterment of students involved.

The changes:

• St. Louis the King School at the Cathedral will combine forces with the other archdiocesan elementary schools: St. Cecilia School, Most Holy Trinity School and St. Louis Catholic Academy and cease operations at the site adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End.

• Likewise, students of the school at St. Angela Merici Parish will be welcomed at the remaining Federation of Catholic Schools in the Northeast Deanery: Sacred Heart, St. Ferdinand, St. Norbert and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Florissant; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, St. Ann in Normandy and Christ Light of Nations in Bellefontaine Neighbors.

Significant changes in registration for the 2017-18 school year prompted both changes. The current registration process at each school shows enrollment for next year far below archdiocesan projections, according to archdiocesan education officials.

Registration at St. Angela for the 2017-2018 academic year is 123, down about 33 percent from 183 for this academic year. At St. Louis the King, the registration of 40 represents about a 63-percent drop from 108 this year. This indicates that school parents and families are making enrollment decisions that are significantly different than archdiocesan projections, necessitating action by the Catholic Education Office.

"We're transitioning students into other opportunities (schools and programs) that we're already doing and developing," said Maureen DePriest, archdiocesan associate superintendent for elementary school administration. "We're making better use of our resources; we're re-investing resources."

In neither case was funding an issue; officials decided that, rather than using resources to keep schools open, the Catholic Education Office will use resources to enhance Catholic education in the archdiocese.

"We're not trying to cut money; we're just shifting it to where the students are, reinvesting it in other schools and programs," said Kurt Nelson, the archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic education. "We're being more strategic in our investment."

Many options for Catholic education are available for students from St. Louis the King and St. Angela Merici; each school will host a Catholic School Fair the week of May 8, allowing parents and families to hear directly from principals and representatives of schools their children may attend. Both schools draw from multiple zip codes, so a student's new school might be closer to home.

"All families will have access to Catholic schools that offer exceptional programs," DePriest stated, noting that other schools have "ample space to educate students."

In addition to the new plans for St. Louis the King and St. Angela Merici students, the Renaissance marches on in south St. Louis and elsewhere in north county.

In the city, plans are on track for the opening of South City Catholic Academy, the merger of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Joan of Arc schools, for the 2017-18 school year. The Catholic Education Office will administer the school.

In north St. Louis county, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson already has approved for the 2018-19 school year the merger St. Ferdinand, St. Norbert and St. Rose Philippine into a similar partnership-model school, also to be administered by the Catholic Education Office.

DePriest described these developments as "the beginning of a wonderful story on Catholic education." 

>>Next steps

The archdiocesan Catholic Education Office will work with families and parents to find Catholic schools for their children. Assistance will include:

• Scholarships will follow students to schools that participate in the Today & Tomorrow Educational Foundation program.

• St. Louis the King and St. Angela Merici each will host a Catholic School Fair for families in the week of May 8 (with specific dates and times to be determined). Principals and representatives will be in attendance to share information about their schools.

• Also in the week of May 8, a special meeting will be held with St. Louis the King parents and rising eighth-graders to discuss Academy Support for next school year and into high school. (At the school fair, rising sixth- and seventh-graders will be able to get information about archdiocesan elementary schools with the Academy program.)

• The principals also will be a resource to assist families during this time of transition.

• In addition, the Office of School Personal and the archdiocesan Office of Human Resources will assist teachers and staff with employment search and job placement.

Source: Archdiocesan Catholic Education Office 

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