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Catholic high school plan is on hold

There are still plans to build a Catholic high school in western Wisconsin, but the plan is basically on hold as supporters deal with the economy and other issues that must be in place before a school can be built.

"It's still a matter of 'when,' but now is not the time," said Chad Denucci of New Richmond, a member of the St. Croix Valley Catholic High School Task Force that recently met with Superior Diocese officials on the feasibility of a private high school.

The task force completed a demographic study in April 2006 and a feasibility study in March 2007.

"There is still a strong desire for a Catholic high school in the St. Croix Valley region," Denucci said.

The school has been discussed for a number of years, and originally it was hoped that something would be operational by this fall (2008-09 school year).

Denucci said there were originally three potential land offers for donated property in the Hudson area. According to newspaper archives, the most seriously discussed site was a possible donation of land from John and Georgine Schottler on the north side of County E west of the intersection of County roads I and E.

Denucci, however, is still optimistic that a school will be built in the future. He bases his opinion on the findings of the task force. Among the findings were: The presence and sizing of a Catholic high school of 400-plus students, grades 9-12, is supported by current and projected demographic conditions and the local Catholic Church and population factors.

The study, however, also noted that the socio-economic conditions create evidence that more research is needed to access the degree of support and level of financial support.

The task force identified two significant challenges. They were leadership with expertise and financial sustainability.

Meeting with members of the St. Croix Valley Catholic High School on May 1, 2008, were Bishop Peter Christensen; Dick Lyons, diocesan director of Christian formation; and Peggy Schoenfuss, diocesan superintendent of catholic schools. They discussed the potential and challenges confronting the realization of a Catholic high school in western Wisconsin.

After the meeting, the task force recommended the following:

  • A diocesan and regional long-range plan for secondary Catholic education.
  • Initiation of a process to engage the four St. Croix County Catholic elementary schools and respective parishes in collaboration, shared resources and strategic planning with regards to secondary Catholic education.
  • A local and regional search for potential leaders to establish an executive board with expertise in development, financial management and program planning.

    "If this educational option is to be affordable and accessible to families of all socio-economic levels, focused attention must be placed on the establishment of a major endowment for tuition assistance," Denucci said. "Current economic conditions in western Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota make it difficult to ignore the increased financial stress and concerns impacting spending and investing decisions of our communities. Waiting to plan for a Catholic secondary education option will not improve these factors."

    He said financial sustainability will be a challenge, but the potential for fund-raising is hopeful.

    "Those capable of making significant contributions have demonstrated an interest in this project," Denucci said. "The task force established the St. Croix Valley Catholic Education Foundation. Acquiring more than $50,000 in donations, a portion was used to fund the demographic and feasibility studies."

    In addition to funding the studies, the foundation's purpose is to provide ongoing tuition assistance for families in need who have chosen a Catholic school in St. Croix County.

    There are currently elementary and/or middle level Catholic schools in Hudson, Somerset, Stillwater, River Falls, Prescott, Ellsworth and New Richmond. Denucci said many families have been sending their high school-age students to Catholic schools in the Twin Cities area. He said immediate attention will also focus on assisting those families.

    "Many families invest faithfully for eight years in Catholic education in our St. Croix County communities, only to find no local options to continue through the adolescent years," Denucci said. "That is frustrating for all. The belief that a secondary education option should exist in the St. Croix Valley region is evident."

    The St. Croix Valley Catholic High School Task Force has forwarded the full report and recommendations to Bishop Peter Christensen for review and evaluation.

    "The task force wishes to thank all those who participated in the surveys and studies, those who contributed to funding the work, and those who have been supportive of the initiative," Denucci said.

    More information is available at

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