New regional school to draw kids from two parishes

| Susan Klemond | January 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

When the new White Bear Lake area Catholic school — Frassati Catholic Academy — opens this fall, an innovative curriculum will connect not only the students’ academic subjects, but also the legacies and traditions of two long-established parish schools.

While members of St. Mary of the Lake and St. Pius X parishes mourn the loss of their individual schools, parents and parishioners accept that forming the new pre-K to 8 school will benefit Catholic education. They also look forward to the academy’s introduction of a new educational model that promises to change how kids learn, according to Patrick Gallivan, who currently serves as St. Mary of the Lake School principal and has been named principal of the new school.

“Both of our communities are experiencing loss, but along with that loss is a tremendous opportunity to start something new, and we’re going to take advantage of that,” he said.

As fall enrollment for the new school begins this week, administrators anticipate registering about 250 K to 8 students and 50 preschool students. The school, named for 20th- century Italian Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, will be on the St. Mary campus, located 2.6 miles from St. Pius X. The campus can accommodate 400 students.

The academy will teach integrated units of science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math (STREAM). The model expands on STEM, in which teachers receive training in science, technology, engineering and math, along with help integrating the disciplines into other subjects such as physical education, where science and math aren’t often taught, said Patty Born Selly, executive director of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University.

After teachers and administrators receive STEM training this summer with grant funding, Frassati Catholic Academy will become the first Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to meet STEM qualifications, Gallivan said, adding that by incorporating religion and art, it will be the first STREAM school in the state. Full implementation will take three to five years.

Teachers at both schools have received preference to apply for jobs at the new school. Final staffing decisions will be made later this spring when enrollment becomes more definite, Gallivan said.

Science and technology will be approached from Catholic knowledge and morals, he said. St. Mary pastor Father Ralph Talbot, the new school’s moderator, and St. Pius X pastor Father Joe Bambenek, its chaplain, will conduct seminars for teachers on faith, and moral and ethical implications of science and technology. Father Bambenek, who has advanced degrees in engineering, said he will be involved in the process.

The school also will bring in local artists through a new partnership with the White Bear Lake Center for the Arts. Language arts will tie the program together.

“The benefit for the parish and the broader Church will be the education and formation of young people whose Catholic faith penetrates all aspects of their life,” said Father Talbot.

Not only will STREAM give students a strong foundation in science and math, but also in all their subjects, Gallivan said. “What it does is it provides them kind of the springboard to pursue just about anything they wish in their future as high school and college students.”

While it will start something new with STREAM, the new school will reflect the communities it brings together, said St. Pius X School principal Danny Kieffer, who will serve as the academy’s assistant principal.

“We’re two communities with two histories and two sets of vision, and so we have to balance representing both of those histories and traditions, as well as creating some new traditions, creating a new identity,” he said.

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Category: Catholic Schools Week