Although St. Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls and St. Mary’s School in Waterloo will officially close in June, they will live on with a new name and location.
At the end of the 2004-05 school year, the two schools will merge to form the new St. John Bosco School, which will be located at the current St. Patrick’s building.
Consolidation talks began in December 2003 when teachers, parents, principals and pastoral leaders from both school and parish communities formed a joint committee to discuss options in light of declining enrollment and related budgetary concerns in both schools, officials said.
St. Patrick’s had 117 students enrolled in its preschool through eighth-grade programs in 2004-05, and St. Mary’s — which also offers preschool through eighth-grade programs — had 128 students enrolled.
In October 2004 the committee issued a recommendation that the schools consolidate. This decision came after nearly a year of studying enrollment and budget statistics at each school and the conditions of both buildings. The committee also considered how a consolidated school might be able to offer additional programs and services and attract new students.
In mid-November, Bishop Matthew H. Clark approved the proposed consolidation, and parishioners were informed of the upcoming change.
The current St. Patrick’s School was then chosen as the site of the new St. John Bosco School, which will open in September. St. Patrick’s School, which was built in 1879, has 12 classrooms, a library and a gymnasium. It was chosen “because it has more room and space,” according to Sister of Mercy Kathleen O’Connell, pastoral administrator of St. Mary’s Parish. The parish is in the process of determining how best to use the Waterloo building after the end of the school year.
“We at least want to wait for the kids to finish the school year before we start using it for other things,” Sister O’Connell said.
The parish currently uses the building for religious-education classes, and this will likely continue, she said. St. Mary’s is also considering using the building for more parish activities.
“We’ve got ideas, but nothing concrete,” Sister O’Connell said.
St. John Bosco, who is known for his passion for teaching children, was chosen as the school’s patron saint. The name of the consolidated school was announced to St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s parishioners on Jan. 30, the day before St. John Bosco’s feast day.
“St. John Bosco was very influential in the education of young people. It’s very appropriate for him,” Sister O’Connell said.
The next step in the consolidation process will be the hiring of a new principal. The diocese planned to begin advertising the position in early March, Sister O’Connell said. Eventually, an entire staff will have to be hired.
Everyone involved has worked very hard to ensure that the consolidation process is fair, open and orderly, Father William Laird, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, wrote in his Feb. 5 bulletin column.
“Even as we proceed with the next stages of this, we will continue to maintain the same spirit of fairness and openness that we have tried to achieve throughout,” Father Laird said in his column. “Thanks to all who have expressed their support and encouragement about something that had to be done and that needed doing for the past 10 years.”
Current St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s students enrolling at St. John Bosco in the fall won’t be strangers to each other. For the past several months, students from the two schools have participated in many joint activities. During Catholic Schools Week in February, the students shared a visit from a mobile planetarium, a Mardi Gras party, and a talent show and family dinner.
These joint events were planned so students from both schools would get a chance to meet and become acquainted with their future classmates, St. Patrick’s Principal Diana Oravec told the Catholic Courier during Catholic Schools Week.