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Outpouring of support saves St. Joseph School in Big Bend

Jan. 29, 2013

Village of Big Bend - St. Joseph School, S89 W22650 Milwaukee Ave.,

will remain open after an announcement last week that it was to close.

Around since 1955, St. Joseph's is one of few remaining Catholic schools serving the Mukwonago area and maintains an enrollment of about 125 students per year in K4 through eighth grade.

St. Joseph's School announced Jan. 22 that it would close after this school year. According to Milwaukee Archdiocese Communications Director Julie Wolf, the school had been looking at advanced projections of budgets and did not see how it could continue to fund the school.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, the school and parish gave families an opportunity to discuss the news at a forum attended by nearly 175 people.

"There was just a huge swell of support from not only current students, but from members of the community and former trustees of the parish," Wolf said.

In what parent Shelly Wohler called "powerful, heartfelt testimony," parents, grandparents and others expressed the meaning of the school to their loved ones, many asking what could be done to save it.

"I believe the thought behind it was 'Give us a chance, and we will make it work!'," Wolf said.

The Rev. Dick Robinson of St. Joseph's Parish said it was heartening to see such energy and passion behind keeping the school going.

Robinson announced at the all-school Mass on Friday, Jan. 25, that the decision had been reversed, and the school would remain open.

"We are committed to the school to remain open. Like a marriage, this commitment is significant and requires work to flourish," Robinson said in a letter home to parents. "The school parents, with guidance from the Parish Council, will be expected to prepare a strategic plan with measurable goals to keep the school viable."

Catholic School's Week kicked off Sunday, and St. Joseph's proceeded with its open house. A followup meeting will be held for parents from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 31 in the parish hall to develop a strategic plan for the future of the school. A second open house will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 1, for parents and guests to observe live classroom activities. The school hopes these events will help to promote the value of the education they provide.

"It's the easy decision to keep the school open," Robinson said. "It's the hard part to sustain that decision."

Wolf said the archdiocese also plans to play a roll in helping the school move forward.

"We'll be doing everything we can to help market the value of a Catholic education in the area," Wolf said. "As a community we will work together to help the school be successful."

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