After providing Catholic education for 77 years, St. Clare School in St. Clair dismissed for the last time on May 21.
Declining enrollment prompted the closure of the school in the Washington Deanery, just off Interstate 44 about 54 miles southeast of St. Louis. According to the archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Planning, 38 students were enrolled this past school year — a drop of just over 50 percent from 77 in the 2015-16 school year. With the exception of those years, enrollment had ranged between 52 and 64 since the 2010-11 school year.
The school educated two grades per classroom, though it didn’t have an eighth grade the past two years. It also didn’t have seventh-graders in 2016-17, according to archdiocesan figures. The fifth through seventh grades this year combined for nine students. The first and fourth grades had the highest enrollment, with eight students each. Of the remaining six grades, four had three or four students.
According to archdiocesan statistics from 2017, St. Clare Parish ranks 125th among 180 parishes in the archdiocese, with 855 parishioners.
Students have several options to remain in Catholic education, with three schools within 15 miles: Immaculate Conception in Union (8.8 miles, from St. Clare); St. Gertrude (13.5 miles); and St. John the Baptist “Gildehaus” in Villa Ridge (13.6 miles). In addition, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Francis Borgia are 15.2 miles and 16.6 miles away, respectively, in Washington.
Last year, Washington Deanery Schools received a $1,000 grant from the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri to be used for future collaboration.
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