New southside school to be named South City Catholic Academy

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

The new partnership model school in south St. Louis now has a name: South City Catholic Academy. The school will combine Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Joan of Arc schools and will operate at St. Joan of Arc. St. James the Greater School, originally included in the partnership school plan, will remain open as a parish-based elementary school at its site for the 2017-18 school year.

The name of this first partnership school — part of what is called a renaissance in Catholic education — was announced Jan. 29, the start of Catholic Schools Week. An open house at the new school was held that day.

Under the model, the archdiocese partners with parishes and schools on decisions regarding governance, leadership, curriculum, programs and personnel. The new kindergarten through eighth-grade school at Hampton and Pernod Avenues will be governed by a board that will include the superintendent of Catholic education for the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced Feb. 8 that after a significant anonymous donation was made to keep St. James School open, a memorandum of understanding was entered into by St. James Parish and the archdiocese, allowing the school to operate as a parish-based school for the next school year. The Archdiocese of St. Louis will not be providing operating grants to the school after the 2016-17 school year, and the school will need significant development efforts in order to balance its budget every year.

St. James has 102 students enrolled this school year, about half as many as 20 years ago. St. Joan of Arc has 161 and Our Lady of Sorrows has 139, both having significant enrollment drops in the last 20 years.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson stated that he is pleased to see parents and parishioners "collaborating and building strong partnerships to create a new school that will ensure long-term, high-quality Catholic education for their children."

Partnership schools — another is proposed in north St. Louis County — will stress academic excellence and strong Catholic formation for children; affordability for families and parishes in accessible locations; and the efficient and effective use of resources, with educational and religious educational programs of similar quality in all of the schools.

Maureen DePriest, associate superintendent for elementary school administration and director of City Catholic Elementary Schools, said that "the past year, new energy has been put into preparing a plan for schools in the City of St. Louis. Combined with new financial resources from gifts to the Beyond Sunday campaign, existing resources from the Today and Tomorrow Foundation and the Annual Catholic Appeal and new leadership for Catholic Schools from the Catholic Education Office, there is new life in our schools."

The Archdiocesan School Oversight Committee developed the partnership model at the request of the parishes' pastors. The parishes were experiencing the same changes and challenges related to declining enrollment, increasing costs of the schools and depleted parish reserves. The plan was presented Oct. 30 at separate meetings for teachers, parish leaders and for parents and parishioners at all three parishes. The recommendation and input from parents and parishioners was presented to the archdiocesan Board of Catholic Education and to Archbishop Carlson.

"The vision of having various school models, other than just parish parochial schools, is one way the Archdiocese of St. Louis can provide resources, personnel and funding necessary to ensure that all educational and religious education programs in all of the schools throughout the city are of similar quality," Archbishop Carlson stated in the archdiocese's announcement.

Plans are for the new school to include a learning consultant to assist teachers with the various learning needs of the students. Enrichment classes will be offered during the school day and after school. A band program, which has a long history at Our Lady of Sorrows School, will operate at the new school. 

Renaissance of Catholic Education

Change is needed in the operation of schools in part because of the challenge presented by decreased enrollment due to population decreases and families’ inability to afford tuition. The recommendation for the partnership school is seen as providing the leadership, programs and types of schools needed to sustain vibrant Catholic education. With enhanced leadership and strategic planning for all of the schools, the archdiocese will be better able to monitor these schools and address future change and challenges.

For more information about the renaissance in Catholic education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, visit www.archstl.org/renaissance

The archdiocese's statement on South City Catholic Academy: www.archstl.org/node/4403837

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