Chesterton school planned for Stillwater seeks Church recognition

| December 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

Chesterton Academy students listen to G.K. Chesterton scholar Dale Ahlquist during a theology class in 2016. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A new high school plans to open in Stillwater in August 2020, and its leaders are working with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to be recognized as a Catholic school.

Called Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley, the school has connections to Chesterton Academy in Hopkins, which was founded in 2008 as an independent private high school. The school earned recognition from the archdiocese as a Catholic school in 2016.

Since its founding, 18 other schools based on its model have opened across the United States and Canada, with another in Italy. Others are slated to open in 2020, including schools in Detroit, Michigan; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Spokane, Washington. Together they are known as the Chesterton Schools Network.

The idea for Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley grew from a second campus Chesterton Academy opened in 2017 at Blessed Sacrament parish in St. Paul. Chesterton Academy’s Hopkins campus has an enrollment of about 150, with 27 others at the St. Paul campus.

Chesterton Academy’s agreement to house its east campus at Blessed Sacrament is set to expire next year. 

Dale Ahlquist, a local Catholic, writer G.K. Chesterton scholar and a Chesterton Schools Network leader, said archdiocesan officials encouraged the school to relocate the campus farther east than its current site, and the distance between the east metro area and its Hopkins campus prompted Chesterton Academy leaders to explore closing the east campus and instead opening a separately incorporated school.

The proposed school hopes to move into a building at 1835 Northwestern Ave., Stillwater. There are currently no Catholic high schools in the archdiocese east of the Interstate 494-694 beltway.

As a new school, Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley is following the archdiocese’s recognition policy process, said Jason Slattery, director of the archdiocese’s Office for the Mission of Catholic Education.

“As the policy states, the archdiocese wants to ensure that a proposed new Catholic school can thrive on its own as a Catholic school, and that the proposed Catholic school is committed through a relationship with the local Church to partnering with mothers and fathers in handing on the Catholic faith,” the OMCE staff told The Catholic Spirit in a Dec. 11 email.

The Chesterton Schools Network is an initiative of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, which grew out of the American Chesterton Society Ahlquist founded in 1996. The Society, which is an association of the faithful within the Church, is headquartered at Chesterton Academy in Hopkins. Ahlquist was also one of the founders of Chesterton Academy, and he said the new school’s leaders are “hoping for an approval as quickly as possible.”

“The plan is to operate as a Catholic school, and to have the exact same arrangement that Chesterton Academy on the west side has right now,” he said.

Schools in the Chesterton Network aim to offer a classical education that is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and affordable. According to information provided to the Stillwater City Council, Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley anticipates a 2020-2021 enrollment to be 40-50 students, with growth to 100 students within five years.

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