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St. James closing this fall

Feb. 2, 2010

After 63 years of serving the Mukwonago community, St. James School's doors will close next fall.

School principal Sister Martha Meyer confirmed that the school, which houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade, would close, though she declined to comment as to the reason for the closing. She said a statement was forthcoming from the Rev. Michael Savio. Savio did not return phone calls seeking comment.

St. James parent Chrissy Gureski said school parents were notified by e-mail on Jan. 6. According to that e-mail, enrollment numbers at the school weren't what they should be, so the school will shut down next year.

Gureski's family has been parish members for 10 year; her children have attended the school for six years. She said that when she heard the news, she was saddened and disappointed.

"This is not something that had to happen," Gureski said. "They could have hung on one more year."

Gureski said parents, as a whole, are disappointed at the news and feel the archdiocese pushed the closure through after the parish council voted to close the school's doors.

According to St. James Parish Council member Rick Gureski, St. James worked with St. Joseph's School in Big Bend for about a year to try to partner with that school, but when an agreement couldn't be reached, the St. James parish council decided to consider closing the school. While a plan was put together to try and keep the school's doors open, parents were told if 60 families agreed to enroll next year, the school could remain open, but only 46 students promised to return.

Enrollment numbers in parochial schools overall have been declining; however, Gureski noted that the dropoff in numbers at St. James was steeper during a period when the parish had a lot of turnovers in administration. Gureski said the parish thinks it finally has a special priest in Savio, who could have helped the school, but enrollment figures were already too low.

"Father Mick has been a blessing to the parish," said Gureski. "He has been fantastic to work with."

A group of parents sent a petition to the archbishop asking him to reconsider the decision, but he has not responded.

Gureski has begun looking at surrounding parochial and public schools and visited the open house at St. Paul School in Genesee Depot on Sunday.

According to the church's Web site, www.stjamesmukwonago.org, St. James School started in 1947 with School Sisters of Notre Dame teachers, Sister Mary Burnard and Sister Teressa. Classes were held in the church basement with four grades in each room. 52 students attended.

In 1950, classes were held in the basement of the unfinished new rectory on 423 Division Street, across from the old church. That year, 100 acres of farmland on the north side of the village on Highway NN was purchased for a new church, school and convent. As the parish school enrollment increased, more classroom space was needed and the first floor and basement of the once Division Street rectory became classrooms, a library and an office. Under Father Budde's leadership, the present St. James School on Highway NN was built in 1964. Classes began in the new school in the fall of 1965. It was not until 1975 that a new church was built at the Highway NN site.

Catholic Schools Week, which strives to promote Catholic schools, is Jan. 31-Feb. 6. This year's theme is Dividends for Life.

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