St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, which is the oldest parish school in the state, will close next school year due to declining enrollment. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Declining enrollment forced parish’s decision

By Cathy Kozlowicz

Correspondent

After 167 years of religious-based education at Waterford’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, parish officials recently made the decision to close the school.

This was announced at a special parish meeting May 16. The families of students who attend the school were informed by email, which was followed up by a phone call before the meeting. Parish officials sent a letter to the Archdiocese in Milwaukee recommending closing the school at 302 S. Second St.

St. Thomas is the oldest Catholic school in the state.

In March, officials announced the school would remain open as 47 children were committed to attending the school in the fall. By May, however, the families of only 27 students signed the contracts verifying their commitment, Blaise Beaulier, parish trustee, said. He also said at the May 16 meeting that those families, who did not sign contracts, were contacted before the decision was made.

“We were committed with 47, but we just could not do it with 27,” he said in an interview.

Currently, there are 56 students enrolled in the school, which is a drop from 75 at the end of 2018. There were 94 students at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Beaulier also said the school staff had concerns of doing an effective curriculum with an enrollment of 27 students. Parish officials talked about the opportunity of not having a middle school, as only seven kids would be returning in these grades, he said.

“It is all about the kids,” he said.

He said he wasn’t aware of the particular reasons those families had for not enrolling.

“We don’t know. We did not ask them,” Beaulier said. “Maybe people thought the school was small. Maybe they were tired of worrying that something would happen. I am sure they all have different reasons. You have to ask them.”

“I don’t blame them (for not returning). They had tough decisions,” he added. “You have to make a decision on what is best for your kid.

“We had hoped that the school would have the opportunity to grow, and we changed some things,” Beaulier said. “We were thinking how we can differentiate ourselves.”

To read the entire story – including comments from parents whose children attended the school – see the Friday, May 24, edition of the Waterford Post.

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