Catholic school merger
11:38 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Three St. Louis Catholic schools to merge

Updated at 4:55 to correct grammatical error.

Three Catholic schools in south St. Louis county will be merging into one next school year.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced today that Annunciation, Our Lady of Providence, and St. Michael the Archangel parish schools will operate as the Holy Cross Academy. All three will retain their preschool programs. The parishes themselves made the decision to collaborate.

Two schools - Our Lady of Providence and St. Michael the Archangel - will house students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Annunciation will serve as the middle school.

Progress toward the merger started with conversations among eight parishes about five years ago, said the Rev. Dennis Doyle of St. Michael.

"We all realized that our schools were getting a bit smaller and the costs were going higher," he said. "We knew that there were other schools in the Archdiocese that had come together, but it always seemed like someone was  a winner and someone was a loser. We wanted to see if we could figure out, is there a way we could continue real quality Catholic education in each of our parishes in a collaborative manner."

The merger, Doyle says, will enable  students to take at least one foreign language, have more hands-on experience with science, take accelerated math classes and have more exposure to fine arts.

"We may lose a little bit of independence, but I believe that we will find strength in unity," Doyle said.

Archbishop Robert Carlson praised the merger.

"By working together, we're combining the very best of Catholic private education," he said. "We're making sure that the schools in this area, these parishes that are so close together, continue far into the future and at the same time create an excellent learning environment for the young people at every grade level."

Carlson has made Catholic education a centerpiece of his tenure in St. Louis. In addition to an ambitious fundraising effort, Carlson is requiring schools to grow, either through active recruitment or managing their enrollment. He also wants schools to be financially healthy.

The three parish schools collectively enroll about 350 students, down from 653 ten years ago. All staff members will have to reapply for their jobs; school officials say more will be re-hired, though not necessarily in their current positions.