June 23, 2017

All Saints Academy closing; options being considered for students

By John Shaughnessy

With the recent announcement that All Saints Catholic Academy in Dearborn County won’t re-open for the 2017-18 school year, parish officials and the archdiocese have begun efforts to help make it possible for families to enroll their children in nearby Catholic schools.

Representatives from six nearby Catholic schools came to All Saints Parish on the evening of June 19 to meet with families affected by the decision to close All Saints Catholic Academy.

The six Catholic schools that were represented at the meeting included five schools in the archdiocese: St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg, St. Louis in Batesville, St. Mary in Greensburg, St. Michael in Brookville and St. Nicholas in Ripley County. Also represented was St. John the Baptist School, in Harrison, Ohio, in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“My concern is for the children,” said Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish. “It’s our hope that our children will stay in a Catholic school. We’re doing all we can to make that possible.”

In a letter to school parents, Father Meyer also noted that the parish will provide some financial assistance for tuition for families.

“If tuition is higher at the receiving school, All Saints Parish will pay the difference in tuition,” he wrote. “The parish will also help support transportation to another Catholic school within the [Batesville] Deanery for at least two years if transportation is a significant barrier.”

In the letter, Father Meyer noted that he made “the difficult decision” to request permission from Msgr. William F. Stumpf, the archdiocesan administrator, to close the school on May 4.

Father Meyer also shared the reasons for closing the school, citing “concerns related to enrollment, the need for substantial investment to improve school facilities, and the overall financial cost the parish has been bearing to operate the school.”

Less than 50 students were enrolled in the school that extended from kindergarten through eighth grade, Father Meyer said in an interview. The parish’s pre-school, located on its St. John the Baptist campus in Dover, will remain open.

“The archdiocesan human resources department and Office of Catholic Schools will be working with me to ensure that our school faculty and staff receive appropriate compensation for their ministry through severance pay, benefits based on employment status, and assistance in finding new employment,” the pastor noted in his letter.

Principal Janna Stonebraker praised the teachers, staff, students and families for making the school a special place during her five years of leading it.

“We had a great faculty and staff, and the school families were all wonderful,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. The school is authentically Catholic, and the experience that comes from that is amazing. It created a true family atmosphere.”

In an interview, Father Meyer also saluted the “long-lasting tradition of Catholic education in Dearborn County.”

“With the closing of a school, you go through stages of grief,” he said. “Our community is grieving, but we’re also trying to look forward and be people of hope. As I told our parishioners, we will always be a parish that supports Catholic education.”

Superintendent of Catholic schools Gina Fleming said the archdiocese will “welcome the opportunity to further explore the feasibility of a regional school” in the Batesville Deanery, “engaging all those who are impacted, in addition to other possibilities that best serve southeast Indiana.”

She also noted, “Catholic schools are an essential ministry of our Church, so it is always difficult when factors result in the closure of this incredible ministry on one of our parish campuses. It is clear that the community of All Saints Parish is comprised of committed Catholics who seek to form youth in the faith.

“With God’s grace and the commitment of both the local communities and the Office of Catholic Schools under our newly named Archbishop-designate Charles [C.] Thompson, we will collectively continue to strengthen ways in which we form and educate youth of the Batesville Deanery.”

(To view the archdiocesan decree about the closing of All Saints Catholic Academy, check the link, goo.gl/1xdspM)

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