Mix of sadness, excitement as two schools become one

| June 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
Kindergartners Mariah Tuerk, left, and Elli Petronack hug each other during the final prayer of the closing ceremony at St. Pius X School in White Bear Lake June 5. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Kindergartners Mariah Tuerk, left, and Elli Petronack hug each other during the final prayer of the closing ceremony at St. Pius X School in White Bear Lake June 5. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Though there were tears and hugs as the school year came to an end at St. Pius X School in White Bear Lake, there also was excitement for the new regional school that will take its place.

The transition from two schools to one in White Bear Lake is moving ahead of schedule, according to Father Ralph Talbot, pastor of St. Mary of the Lake.

Frassati Catholic Academy is fully staffed with employees from the two original schools, St. Mary of the Lake and St. Pius X. They have enrolled 243 students so far and are still accepting new students.

“The Frassati School Advisory Council, made up of eight parents, four from St. Mary’s and four from St. Pius, has done an extraordinary job of propelling the project,” said Father Joe Bambenek, pastor of St. Pius X. “Their passion, dedication and competence has been impressive and inspiring.”

The academy, named for 20th-century Italian Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, will teach integrated units of science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math. The model is called STREAM, building on the STEM model that integrates the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math into other subjects, such as physical education.

The new school will be housed on the St. Mary campus; the St. Pius X school building will be leased to Liberty Classical Academy beginning July 1.

Despite a year anticipating the changes to come, faculty at St. Mary made a concerted effort to celebrate the school’s 100-year history of learning.

“Their focus has remained on learning and living our rich Catholic faith during this transitional year and not dwelling on the loss,” Father Talbot said.

“‘Celebrating the past and inspiring the future’ has been the focus in our community. After school hours, there is some sadness and a sense of loss, but also great hope for the success of Frassati Catholic Academy.”

Even more challenging for students and staff at St. Pius X was the reality that the building would be used for other purposes.

“We are sad to see our school close, but want to be a good landlord to our brothers and sisters in Christ from Liberty,” Father Bambenek said. “It has been a challenging time. We have teachers and staff members who have served this community for over 20 years,” said Principal Danny Kieffer, who will serve as vice principal of the new school. “Our students, staff, parents and parishioners have pulled together to support one another as we carry our beloved school to the end.”

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Second-graders Katie Bennett, left, and Gabby Joseph read what classmates have written in a yearbook.

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