Questions to ponder about school closure

By | October 8, 2009

Even with severe economic challenges, the church cannot abandon the poor. We’ve seen how leaders of our local church have been able to respond to homelessness in recent years. When a temporary shelter for the homeless was closed in 2005, St. John’s Homeless Shelter was created.

Catholic schools in Appleton are facing their own dilemma today, as ACES Xavier School System looks to close one of its four elementary schools next year to prevent a budget shortfall.

According to Tony Abts, ACES Xavier system president, the decision to consolidate four schools into three will free up resources and provide for “a sustainable future.”

The economic hardship of operating a Catholic school, and especially a school system, continues to test the innovative mettle of the most dedicated school administrators. Abts reports that three of the system’s four elementary schools and its middle school are at only half of their enrollment capacity. By closing one school, he said, the system would save an estimated $450,000, which would cover an expected $300,000 anticipated deficit next year.

The ACES Xavier school system has a long track record of serving Catholics in Outagamie County. The result has been graduates succeeding and prospering in life, and returning their material and spiritual gifts to the church and community.

Today, with an influx of immigrants and ethnically diverse families into the Fox Valley, the socioeconomic landscape has changed.

While the church continues to honor its mission of serving people in need, funding for Catholic schools becomes increasingly difficult. An easy solution would be to avoid serving the poor and racial minorities who live in the city of Appleton, and instead reach out to privileged families who reside in the subdivisions on the city’s outskirts.

But that is not how the church operates.

At this time, no decision has been made as to which school will be closed. The system’s corporate board, which includes Bishop David Ricken, will make that decision.

We believe the Holy Spirit will help guide ACES Xavier School System in its decision to consolidate its elementary schools. We also believe that the decision should reflect Catholic social teaching, so that the poor of the community continue to have access to Catholic school education. Mother Seton would want it that way.

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