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Future of Sacred Heart School is questionable

This building which houses Sacred Heart School, was constructed in 1929. The education of students of the parish began in 1904.

Sacred Heart School students on Wednesday brought home letters detailing worries about the future of the 115-year-old Oelwein school.

Parents of Sacred Heart School students received a letter from Father Ray Atwood and Principal Julie Woods highlighting the school’s financial and enrollment figures, along with possible solutions.

“It’s a combination of financial and enrollment situations,” said Woods in a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon.

Woods said the school, at this time, is not closing its doors. However, if parishioners, parents, alumni, etc., wish to see the school continue to be a viable source for education in the community, the numbers, both financial and physical, must improve.

When asked if tuition costs are keeping parents from enrolling their children, Woods replied, “There’s a lot of financial support available and tuition support locally. That should not stand in the way of any student coming to Sacred Heart.”

She added that all students are welcome of any denomination.

Woods said there are two public meetings scheduled and the school wants input from its families and parish. The first meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the church sanctuary.

The second meeting will be Sunday, Nov. 10, following the 10:30 a.m. Mass (approximately 11:30 a.m.), also in the church sanctuary.

“Basically, if people want information, they need to attend one or both meetings. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers,” she said.

The letter students brought home Wednesday highlights some possible options to keep the school going. Among the options is a capital campaign for each of the next three school years to raise at least $95,000 per year. This would enable leadership to aggressively recruit and budget to re-establish Sacred Heart School.

In addition to raising money, the option includes increasing enrollment to a total of 85 students by the 2021-2022 school year. Currently, there are 54 students in grades K-6 and 21 in pre-K. The school’s population has dropped approximately 50 percent in the past 10 years. The Office of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese recommends to be secure financially, there should be a minimum of 16 students per class.

Other options include reducing the school to serving PK-4 students; reducing to PK-2 students; serving preschool only; or closing the school, which could be considered for 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 school years.

“We want input from our families and parish. We are hoping for a good turnout for these meeting and some positive support for the school. The meetings are open to the public, because Sacred Heart School is an important part of the Oelwein community,” Woods said.