Bob Focht, parishioner at St. Francis de Sales, Spooner, and grandparent of students at the parish school, gives a wagon ride to parish and school families who gathered at the third annual Garden Party celebrating a summer of volunteer gardening at Wisdom Woods Garden. St. Francis de Sales has partnered with the Wisdom Family Foundation to maintain and continue to develop a garden on its property north of Spooner in exchange for a sizeable donation. The project has brought together volunteers from both the school and parish cluster community. (Submitted photo)

School is back in session for the 14 schools across the Diocese of Superior. The last days of summer saw faculty and staff preparing for a new academic year. Most schools offered a teachers’ retreat.

Back-to-school picnics and backpack blessings have increased in recent years, with some schools hosting the gatherings into early September.

Some schools have welcomed priests newly assigned to their church and school communities, and there are a few new principals.
According to preliminary numbers received by the diocese’s Office of Catholic Formation, total enrollment numbers in diocesan schools are slightly down overall from 2018-19.

Six schools saw a decrease in their number of students; two with the largest decreases are nearest the Twin Cities. The largest enrollment increases were in the Medford and Merrill schools.

Following are notes on what’s new at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Superior.

St. Francis de Sales, Spooner

St. Francis de Sales has welcomed two new teachers and implemented a new “homeroom families” structure to best use the building’s space. Principal Sarah Zeien said the purpose is to increase “a family atmosphere that included multi-age groups for parts of the day.” Various building improvements were made over the summer and grades three through eight have a new English/language arts curriculum.

St. Mary, New Richmond

According to principal Laura Jo Jarchow, “St. Mary’s School (in New Richmond) is really dedicating itself to becoming a mission-driven school.” This is being reflected in her participation, with pastor Fr. John Anderson, in a medical mission trip to Haiti and a charity fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Student council members are packing backpacks for the local food shelf, and teachers are volunteering at the local Ruby’s Pantry. The school will also offer a flu shot clinic for the school and church families and community.

A yearlong study of Catholic social teachings is being introduced that will include monthly teachings with examples of scripture, service projects and activities.

St. Bridget, River Falls

Teachers and students at St. Bridget’s School in River Falls are enjoying newly installed smartboards. Funds raised at the 2019 spring gala for the school covered purchasing the interactive display screens for each classroom. In addition to a new principal, a new physical education teacher has been hired.

St. Anne, Somerset

St. Anne’s School in Somerset has hired two new teachers and is implementing a STEM program. Staff, students and families started the year seeking support through an annual school marathon.

Holy Rosary, Medford

Medford’s Holy Rosary School welcomed 31-year veteran teacher Theresa Easterly as its new principal. Easterly said she is “passionate about our school and families, and is excited about helping all students and staff be the gifts to the world that God wants them to be.” The school has formed new clubs – ukulele, cribbage, STEM and baking – as well as added a student council. While enrollment is up, the parish is encouraging long-term growth by adding Pre-kindergarten flyers to the tote bags given to parents of newly baptized children.

St. Mary, Tomahawk

St. Mary’s School in Tomahawk is sharing about their school through “Testimonial Tuesday” posts on their Facebook page. “If someone has something good to say about our school, we would like to share it,” said principal Rita Lee. Quotes and comments come from the annual parent satisfaction survey, interviews with families and things heard on the playground and in the halls. School staff and faculty spent a day of retreat at Marywood Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae with the theme of self-care. “As teachers we are called to give of ourselves to our students. Sometimes we hav to step back and make sure we are taking care of ourselves, too,” Lee said.

St. Francis Solanus, Reserve

St. Felissa Zander, SSSF, shared her gratitude for the volunteer parishioners who washed the school and parish building’s exterior walls and repainted all the playground equipment. She said, “It looks brand new! Now we don’t refer to it as our playground, but as our park.”

St. Patrick, Hudson

According to St. Patrick, Hudson, principal Dan Bell, the schools has purchased flex seating and adopted Guided Reading for grades Kindergarten through four. The school also has a new concession stand for athletic and school events, and they are currently installing a new sound system in the gymnasium.

Cathedral School, Superior

Cathedral School, Superior, has seen growth in enrollment, said development director Jess Poskozim.

“This has been something we have worked hard at the last few years through the SMDP process, and we are thrilled to say we are achieving our goal of increasing enrollment over last year,” she added.

Cathedral also added Chromebooks at the middle-school level to provide one-to-one computing during the school day and updated two middle school and two elementary classrooms. They’ve also launched a new science curriculum in sixth grade and applied for a grant to continue the curriculum in seventh and eighth grades.

Our Lady of the Lake, Ashland

Our Lady of the Lake, Ashland, has completed asbestos removal throughout the building. They’ve installed new suspended ceilings – tiles to replace those removed with the asbestos project – which now covers all the internet and communications wiring that is ceiling-mounted on the first floor.

Other building improvements include installation of new flooring to replace the removed asbestos tile/mastic and installation of energy-efficient LED lighting to replace the florescent fixtures removed with the ceiling.

St. Joseph, Rice Lake

St. Joseph, Rice Lake, has two new teachers, said principal Jerry Van Dyke, and the school also hosted a Patriot Day celebration Sept. 11 with guests from the Rice Lake Police Department, Barron County Sheriff’s Department, Rice Lake Fire Department and VFW Honor Guard.
Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander

Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander, finished its building projects – demolition of the old convent building and alterations to the school – in summer and early fall. The exterior brick work for the school alterations was completed in late August, followed by school security improvements. A new set of exterior doors was installed on King Street, along with the installation of security film on many of the windows on the first floor of the school.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Ladysmith

“This year, one of our parish members, Dennis Wiemer, painted new ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ signs for outside our building,” said principal Megan Dieckman. “He also painted “Saints” on our gym floor. Lani Burki, another parish member, is the one organized the whole thing and approached Dennis about doing the painting.” The school has also been beautified with the addition of new artwork and Stations of the Cross from the former St. Ann’s Church, Murray. “Each station is beautifully painted and very vibrant,” she added. The school also has a new priest, Fr. Papi Reddy, who “has been a wonderful addition to our church and school.” The 4-year-old Kindergarten program went from four half-days to four full days of school. “It is so much fun having them in our school all day,” Dieckman said.

St. Francis Xavier, Merrill

St. Francis Xavier in Merrill started the school year with an increase in enrollment, school officials said. Most of the increase is in the 3- and 4-year-old Kindergarten programs. To accommodate all the children that stay all day and eat lunch at school, new toddler-friendly tables, chairs and trays were purchased for the lunchroom: “The littles are all settling in nicely and are an absolute joyous addition to the school family.”