Families at closed St. Paul school receive help for transition

| June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Other Catholic schools,  Aim Higher Foundation provide support

While students and staff at St. Francis-St. James United School in the West Seventh neighborhood of St. Paul faced the sadness of the school’s closure this week, Principal Gail Rappé was trying to be upbeat.

She was grateful that many families found a new Catholic school home for the next school year.

“It’s been tough,” she acknowledged in an interview with The Catholic Spirit June 3, two days before the last day of school. But, she added, “we had a lot of time to find new schools for our kids.”

“We knew about this in November,” said Rappé, noting the announcement last fall that the K-8 school would close at the end of the academic year due to declining enrollment and financial sustainability challenges.

Soon after families learned about the news, the school met with parents “to reassure them that we would do everything we can to make this the best year ever and that we would help all of them find other schools for their kids,” Rappé said.

As part of that effort, principals at nearby Catholic schools — including Holy Spirit and Highland Catholic in St. Paul — attended a school fair last December at St. Francis-St. James United, where those neighboring school leaders talked with families, answered questions and provided informational materials, Rappé said. Students also had opportunities to shadow students at the neighboring Catholic schools to experience a typical day there.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how the principals in those Catholic schools have tried to help us,” she said.

St. Francis-St. James United School had 79 students at the end of the year, including eight eighth-graders, Rappé said. Of the remaining students, about half will be attending Catholic schools this fall.

Helping students

Among the financial assistance many of the students continuing at neighboring Catholic schools will receive are tuition assistance grants from the Aim Higher Foundation. The foundation recently announced a total of $750,000 in grants for the 2013-2014 academic year for students with financial need at 76 Catholic schools in the archdiocese — a nearly $300,000 increase over grant monies awarded for the academic year now ending.

The foundation is continuing support to all students who received Aim Higher Foundation tuition assistance in 2012-2013 if they remain in a Catholic elementary school and have continued financial need — a total of 648 students, said Karen Rauenhorst, chair of the foundation and member of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina. The increase in grant monies will assist additional students in the coming year.

The grants are offered in increments not larger than $1,000 per student per year or 50 percent of yearly tuition paid, whichever is less, according to the foundation.

About 26 students from St. Francis-St. James United will attend Holy Spirit School in the fall and at least 18 will benefit from Aim Higher Foundation grants, said Mary Adrian, Holy Spirit’s principal.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us to certainly enroll students that otherwise might not be able to be enrolled,” she said of the grants. “It really has been a big boost for elementary schools in terms of providing some additional resources that together with parish resources are really making a difference for kids.”

Other funds also help Catholic school families with financial need, such as the 2009 Pohlad Family Foundation grant and 2008 Legacy Grant that aid urban Catholic schools.

Reaching out

Holy Spirit School continues to reach out to its new families from St. Francis-St. James United, most recently by inviting them to an ice cream social.

“It was an opportunity for parents to connect and to get to meet some of their children’s classmates. It was also an opportunity for them to ask questions,” Adrian said.

St. Francis-St. James United hosted a reunion and auction last month, and it raised about $6,000 for scholarships for students, Rappé said. Several hundred people attended the event, which also featured an open house, food, games and a “memory lane” room. The school also hosted a reunion basketball tournament that drew many former students now in high school and college.

Rappé said she has been helping her staff of 11 to find new employment for the fall. Reflecting during the last few days of the school year, she said she was “feeling proud that these last few months we’ve done things with the children that have been memorable.”

One of the last events of the school year was kindergarten graduation June 4.

Throughout the year, the school’s eighth-graders, who graduated May 31, served as “buddies” for the kindergartners, she said. All of the older students were planning to attend the kindergarten graduation.

“They were their big buddies and they didn’t want to let them down,” she said.

Save the date: The first Aim Higher Foundation fundraising gala is set for Nov. 1, at a location yet to be determined. The event, with its theme “A Promise for the Future,” will feature dinner and entertainment by children  from area Catholic schools. Visit the Aim Higher Foundation website or more details as they become available.

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Category: Local News