Appleton school system announces closure of elementary school

By | November 11, 2009

Many parents left the two meetings in tears. Others expressed sorrow, but ongoing faith and support in the ACES system, which dates to 1987. ACES also has campuses at St. Bernadette Elementary School, St. Pius X Elementary School, St. Joseph Middle School and Xavier High School.

“This decision has not been undertaken lightly,” said system president Tony Abts. “We understand the difficulties that this decision will create and are committed to working closely with all affected families during this transition process.”

The decision to close one of its four elementary schools was made this fall by the ACES Xavier Board of Trustees, which includes the pastors of the eight Appleton parishes. The decision came after budget reviews in July projected a deficit occurring in the 2010-2011 school year. The decision to close one school in order to maintain the present positive budget features was announced in two State of the System addresses given by Abts in early October. Nine listening sessions with parents followed during October.

The school to be closed was narrowed to St. Thomas More and Catholic Central by mid-October. The final decision was made on Nov. 3 by the corporate board, which includes the pastors, Bishop David Ricken and Dr. Joseph Bound, diocesan director of education.

Abts said that closing Catholic Central will result in a savings of $450,000. If the four schools had remained open, the forecasted deficit would have been $304,064 in the 2010-2011 school year.

The consolidation will result in some cuts in staff. Abts said there are currently 20 persons employed at the Catholic Central campus. He said some will be reassigned to the other ACES schools, but said that there will be “eight to 12 jobs lost system-wide.”

“I’ve been very impressed with the professionalism of our staff (at Catholic Central and St. Thomas More),” Abts added, “(especially) by the way they continued to remain focused on the best interests of the students.”

The ACES system has experienced a drop in enrollment of 10.4% over the last five years. Abts said that this figured into the decision. The remaining schools are located closer, he said, to the Hwy 41/441 corridor of Appleton, where the most population growth is projected in coming years. Catholic Central is located in the city’s downtown.

Abts said 16 criteria factored into choosing which school to close. These included geography, the distribution of students from various parts of the city in each school and enrollment projections. Catholic Central currently has 168 students. St Thomas More has 186. Additionally, the facilities at both buildings factored in, with St. Thomas More’s more recent renovations figuring into the decision.

Abts said ACES will assist parents of Catholic Central students in finding placement in one of the three remaining schools, including open houses at each campus for parents and students. Then parents will be asked to list their preference of schools.

Admitting that “it was a difficult time for parents” to hear that their school would be closed, Abts said ACES Xavier will “continue to work with them over the next few months, so we’ll be able to help parents get to know the other campuses and help them make good choices for their child’s education for the future.” He added that the goal is to “retain 100 percent of our student population.”

The school building of Catholic Central is not owned by the ACES Xavier system, but belongs to St. Mary Parish and is their former school building. St. Mary, which is the oldest Appleton parish and marked its sesquicentennial this year, will have responsibility for the building after this school year.

“Catholic Central is owned by St. Mary Parish and it will be their decision as to how that building is used,” Abts said. “It’s my hope that there be a use for that building in serving the greater Catholic community throughout Appleton.

He added that “having a school is a real plus for a parish” and said that he has had preliminary talks with St. Mary “about how we can keep that Catholic school presence there after there is not an ACES campus across the street.”

ACES Xavier currently has 1,716 students enrolled at its six campuses.

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