The Chesterton Schools Network will open a high school teaching a classical curriculum in the Catholic tradition in Stillwater for the 2020-21 academic year. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Teaching not just what to think but how to think is foundational for the Chesterton Schools Network of classical high schools.

What started as the vision of one high school in the Twin Cities in 2008 has expanded to a network of 18 schools across the U.S., Canada and Italy, with several additional schools opening in 2020.

One of those schools will be Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley, opening just across the border in Stillwater, Minnesota. Started as an east campus satellite to the original academy, currently operating in Hopkins, the Stillwater school will open with its own headmaster, faculty and staff.

Paul Loomis, Chair of the Board of Directors for Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley, expressed that he is “very excited about what this opportunity can do for us” in an interview with Catholic Herald.

Loomis shared that the school’s Catholic identity “is embedded in all the subjects that we teach. We really embrace the fact that faith and reason work together – that they are not independent of each other. We do that teaching how every subject stems from the incarnation of Christ.”

The network’s classical curriculum approach presents a cohesive education that builds each year on the previous year’s studies. Humanities, math and science and the fine arts are the curriculum’s pillars, and each school day includes Mass as a requirement.

Both Twin Cities Chesterton Academy sites have historically drawn commuter students, Loomis noted, including a student from Wisconsin who currently travels 90 minutes each way to attend the East campus.

“That’s how important a lot of people know and understand that our school is,” he said.

“We are absolutely looking forward to recruiting in Western Wisconsin,” Loomis said.

He added that the Stillwater academy’s tagline is “serving the East Metro and western Wisconsin.”

Loomis, who said the school has always been parent-led, is very excited about the new Stillwater location.

The building, built in the late 1980s and utilized as office space, looks like a school. Minor interior work will be done once the Academy begins their seven-year lease May 1.

“It is the perfect design for what we want to accomplish with our campus,” Loomis said, adding he is “thrilled and excited about the potential that it has for us.”

Chesterton Academy of the St. Croix Valley is hoping to garner interest from families looking for a Catholic high school option in the Western Wisconsin communities in and near Hudson, Somerset, Osceola and River Falls.

However, there has already been interest expressed from as far as Eau Claire, Loomis said.

Loomis said Chesterton is strictly a high school model.

“We will never add middle school grades. No Chesterton Academy in the network would do that,” he said.

The Chesterton Schools Network website indicates that the global interest their model has attracted was a surprise. From two men – Dale Ahlquist and Tom Bengston – seeking a classical, integrated Catholic curriculum for their own families, the Chesterton Schools Network was formally established in 2013 to respond to requests to replicate the model.

The network operates as a project of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton. The society describes itself as “a Catholic apostolate dedicated to Catholic education, evangelization, and the social teaching of the Church.”

Loomis noted that, while all paperwork has been submitted for CASCV to receive designation as a Catholic school from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, “and we’re in final discussions.”

CASCV will operate as a private, independent school under the guidance of the Chesterton Schools Network, but the Catholic designation will show their communion with the archdiocese. He is certain the academy will receive that status, as they are just waiting for the approval date to be given.

An open house is planned for March 5 from 7-8:15 p.m. at 1835 Northwestern Avenue South in Stillwater.
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