Catholic Herald staff
The 2018-19 school year is off to a good start at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, Ladysmith.
Megan Dieckman is in her second year as principal of the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school. OLS joined the state’s parental choice program in January; this will be the first year students have had the option to enroll through the voucher program.
“We currently have 14 students here, our first year, in parental choice,” she said. Some of the students were already attending OLS, but the program, which often covers the entire cost of students’ schooling without parish subsidies, has attracted newcomers as well.
OLS has also landed a new math curriculum for Kindergarten through eighth-grade students. “Math in Focus” is based on the program “Singapore Math.”
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Dieckman commented. “It’s a pretty neat program.”
To accommodate shifting demographics, the school has also combined classrooms. OLS now has a joint second- and third-grade classroom, and a combined sixth- and seventh-grade class.
“The teachers are actually loving it,” she added.
The school also beefed up its marketing with the addition of a new website, olsladysmith.com.
Holy Rosary, Medford; Our Lady of the Lake, Ashland; and St. Joseph, Rice Lake, are also in the parental choice program.
Jerry Van Dyke, principal at St. Joseph, said the school has 11 students enrolled through the program this year, and all are parish members.
“We look at parental choice as an opportunity to expand our mission,” he said, to make Catholic education available to more families.
The school also welcomed three new teachers this year, Van Dyke added. Enrollment is steady, and preschool numbers have climbed.
“Our K3 program has expanded from one classroom to two,” he said; “K3 is our strongest ever.”
Children who attend pre-Kindergarten classes tend to stay at St. Joseph afterward, the principal commented.
Building improvements include bathroom upgrades – plumbing, tiles and more.
“It sounds silly to talk about it, but it looks really nice,” he said.
At Holy Rosary, Medford, principal Brenda Spindler is beginning her first year on the job.
“It’s been a crash course for sure, but it’s been really good,” she said.
Enrollment is holding steady in the school’s first year in parental choice, and they are focused on sticking to their academic standards, “nose to the lesson plans … really being aware of our rigor.”
The school also has a few new teachers, and they’re busy implementing changes funded with an $18,000 safety grant. Among other changes, the doors are now locked, and parents and staff need to ring in before they can enter.
They’re all adjusting to it, Spindler added.
The school just applied for the second part of the grant; they’ll find out whether they’ve received an award in October.
At Nativity of Our Lord in Rhinelander, a long-term plan to consolidate two school buildings into one has finally come to fruition.
“I think it’s been about 15 years,” said principal Melanie Nycz. “That’s been a major change for us; obviously, this is something we’ve been looking forward to, getting all our staff on one campus.”
The school has 204 students.
“Everything’s going well,” she said.
St. Patrick, Hudson, has renovated its gymnasium and added a new section of kindergarten to accommodate growing enrollment, according to principal Dan Bell.
Building upgrades include new paint and removal of old ceiling tiles, new countertops and classroom furniture, a restored, larger library, and more; curriculum changes include new writing and health curriculums and math curriculums in some grades. They’ve also added new classroom training for staff.
At Our Lady of the Lake, Ashland, fostering a sense of service is one goal for the school year. They’ve added a service learning requirement for middle school students and invited community members to speak about their volunteerism.
“We haven’t had one for a while here,” said principal Betty Swiston. “It was good to reinvent this … a way to help us increase our discipleship, too.”
They’ve also added a part-time counselor, an alum with 27 years of experience who moved back to the area and wanted to get involved.
Ashland has drug and alcohol problems and socioeconomic challenges, and Swiston saw the need for students to develop social skills and bonding and learn about drug and alcohol abuse.
With increased enrollment at 101 Kindergarten through eighth-grade students, the school also “took a leap of faith” and took out a loan to renovate the second floor after holding town hall meetings with parents and parishioners. The two-step process will include renovating the bottom floor next summer, so Swiston is hoping for continued community support of the project.
OLL also received a security grant, which they’ve been using to install cameras and improve the PA system throughout the school. Swiston said they had a security task force in place before the grant program ever began, due to the shooting of a teen in the area – and of the group’s list of 10 projects, six of them will be funded by the grant.
OLL has also added a couple of new teachers, upgraded its internet and technology accessibility and implemented a virtual program to help students with speech and language disorders. They also have strong enrollment in their preschool programs.
The school year is off to a good start, Swiston said.