St. Luke school families say farewell, look ahead
School closes doors for good after 49 years of educating students
The bell rang for the last time at St. Luke Parish School on June 11, signaling both the close of the 2008-09 year and the end of the Catholic school's 49-year history.
Parents are finding new schools for their children, and teachers are looking for employment. Melissa Klement, a second-grade teacher and parent of two St. Luke students, is doing both.
Klement said she and her husband wanted a Catholic education for their children. Both parents are graduates of St. Luke School and continued on to Catholic high schools and universities.
"It was very important that our kids continue in that tradition," Klement said.
She enrolled her second-grade son and eighth-grade daughter at Holy Apostles School in New Berlin after she struggled to find space in parish schools closer to Brookfield.
The family will now attend Holy Apostles Catholic Church. Klement said attending church where her children are educated makes sense.
The Rev. Kenneth Augustine, pastor of St. Luke Catholic Church, said the parish has not recommended a particular school to parents, but church officials hope families will continue to choose a Catholic education for their children.
Augustine said many of the school's students plan to join the Klements at Holy Apostles. Additionally, some will attend Waukesha Catholic School, St. Mary's Visitation in Elm Grove, St. John the Evangelist School in Greenfield and St. Dominic School and St. John Vianney School, both in Brookfield.
Other students have enrolled in the Elmbrook School District. Thus far, of the 30 students living within the Elmbrook School District who attended St. Luke in 2008-09, 16 have enrolled in Elmbrook, said Christine Hedstrom, district assistant superintendent for human resources.
Ending on the positive
St. Luke students ended their final year with a week of special activities and field trips. Klement said many of the activities were intended to cement friendships among students.
"We wanted to make the last few weeks as special as possible because they are all going to different schools (after this year)," Klement said.
Augustine said parents and school leaders wanted to make students' last days memorable in a positive way.
"The Home and School (Association) has done many things to celebrate the school and the children, and that's how we see it ending so it's not too much of a negative thing," he said.
Activities included an outdoor art day and a prayer service that included a "sending from the school," Augustine said.
Enrollment too low
School officials announced this spring that the school was closing, citing continually decreasing enrollment.
Fewer than 70 students were enrolled for the 2009-10 school year, down from 239 seven years ago. During 2008-09, 114 students attended the 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth-grade school. St. Luke School employs 16 staff members.
Augustine said the area's complexion has changed since the school opened in 1960 - fewer young children now live here. Decreases in enrollment have made it financially unviable for the parish to continue subsidizing the school's costs, he said.
Attempts to increase student numbers proved fruitless, though some parents have argued more could have been done to save the school.
Building's future uncertain
For now there are no plans for how the school facility, which includes a new gymnasium, air conditioning and new lighting, will be used. Church officials said the space could become a senior center, all-ages Catholic education facility or day care.
Likewise, there are no plans to maintain any of the student clubs or sports teams associated with the school. Augustine said these types of activities are inextricably tied to the school, making it logistically impossible to continue them after this year.
Augustine stressed that St. Luke Parish, opened in 1956, is not closing. About 1,000 households attend the church.
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