Kimberly Hanson has two kids currently attending Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School in Mound. While she was aware the school was struggling with enrollment and finances, she says she was still taken by surprise and "outraged" when a letter arrived in the mail last Wednesday notifying her the school would be closing after this academic year.
"Our priest did not communicate this at all until now," Hanson said. "Many members of the parish have offered help and support to us—trying to save the school. Jack Weist has been at the church for 47 years and runs the food shelf. His grand kids attend the school, and he had no idea. He is outraged, as we all are."
In an effort to rescue the school, a group of concerned parents and parish members formed this year to develop a marketing strategy aimed at boosting enrollment and stabilizing the school's finances.
"This group has invested time and their own money," Hanson said. "They began to market our school, but the priest shelved most of the marketing—reason unknown."
In the last week Hanson, along with dozens of other parents and church members, have turned their group into a School Action Committee that has been soliciting signatures for an appeal to the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The committee will be hosting a meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the closing.
Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul in Minneapolis, said tonight's meeting would be a pivotal in the future of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School.
"There is not an appeal process per say," Accurso said. "If a parish were closing there would be an appeal process, but when there is a school closing there is not an appeal process. Could this (closing the school) change? It could. This meeting Tuesday night is going to be very critical."
If you go:
- When: Tuesday, Jan. 22
- Time: 6:30 p.m.
- Location: 2385 Commerce Boulevard Mound (952) 472-1284
Accurso went on to stress that the decision to close the school was made by the parish—not the Archdiocese.
"A recommendation is made from the pastor to the Archbishop," Accurso said. "The decision itself is not the Archbishop's—it's made on the local level. Unlike other dioceses, every parish here is an individual corporation. The decisions are made at the local level. This was a local decision. It's a parish school, so it's the pastor's decision."
Accurso did say, however, that Arch Bishop John Nienstedt, signed off on the school closing after reviewing the parish's recommendation. Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School is currently the only school in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that has been slated to close after the 2012-13 school year.
"This is a unique situation," Accurso said.
Lake Minnetonka Patch requested to speak with Archbishop Nienstedt but was told his schedule was particularly busy this week and an interview was not possible.
An online petition has been started asking Arch Bishop Nienstedt to reconsider the decision to close Our Lady of Lake Catholic School. The petition, submitted Jan. 17 by Mike Reier, is based on concerns about the "process that was utilized within the sustainability study, the methodology of determination regarding the viability of the school, the failure to consider other business options or business models and the fact that those of us on Parish Counsel and School Advisory Committee were not even consulted or advised of any pending decision."
"As a long time members of Our Lady of the Lake school and parish, we were told the school would remain open in a December letter to parents. The decision to close the school was made abruptly and did not include parents and or parish members." —Chris Johnson
The decision to close Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School was made after the school underwent a sustainability reveiw process. A number of factors go into a sustainability review process, including population, demographics, number of families in the area with school-age children and Catholic families.
Our Lady of the Lake's sustainability study was completed in 2011.
An emergency meeting, attended by about 100 people, was called last week to discuss the school closing and to construct a plan on how to best move forward. A decision was made to begin the process of opening a new school in the Lake Minnetonka area in time for the 2012-13 school year and naming it the Lake Minnetonka Academy.
Members of the parish and other community members involved with the new school's formation created a Facebook page last week in an effort to keep parents and the community informed on their progress.
Lake Minnetonka Patch will have additional updates to this story in the coming day.