A reader sent me the following letter, which is being sent to those former parents and supporters of Gateway Academy. Please read the following communication if you are interested:
Wednesday, April 13, 7:00 PM
Gateway Academy – Assembly Room
Just a short time ago our Gateway Academy community was relieved and excited following the announcement that Gateway would continue as a Catholic school with a Benedictine monk from the Abbey of St. Louis on our board. Following the collective sigh of relief, we forged ahead with the business of our daily family lives, excited about the future for our children and their school. Not long after that, we received the unfortunate news that Gateway simply could not continue because the building would not be available for our use and we had no “home”. Since then, several of us have been exploring the possibility of simply picking up the ball that was placed at the five yard line and trying to carry it into the end zone. Would it be possible to keep our families, our teachers, our rigorous academics and our authentic approach to the Faith intact and move forward in another location? After a series of meetings with interested GA families, we discovered that the answer was yes, it is indeed possible.
Before reviewing our progress, we want to let you know that we met with the board of John Paul II School to explore both our common goals and our differences. Following a frank and fruitful discussion, it was agreed that while the end result of both schools will be high academic standards and authentic Catholic formation, the path to accomplishing those goals will be quite different. Although the list of “to-do’s” for both endeavors may seem like a duplication of effort, the schools are ultimately designed to fulfill different needs in accomplishing the same goals. From our perspective, the opportunity to have a monk from St. Louis Abbey on the board, as well as a chaplaincy program provided by the Benedictines, is an essential element to the future success and longevity of the school. Despite a desire by some to have a three-day option, our current plan for survival with this new school does not permit such a model at this time, either from a fiscal or academic perspective. In the end, all involved are committed to move forward with the shared goals of educating and forming strong Catholic leaders of tomorrow with a spirit of cooperation and charity.
Following is a synoposis of what has transpired as a result of our meetings over the past 2 weeks.
· A vision has evolved of a school that focuses on high academic standards in an authentic Catholic tradition.
· The school will be served by a Governing Board to include a monk from St. Louis Abbey. Acting members of the proposed board are Michael Dixon, Matt Wohlstadter, Danielle Morgenthaler and Father Bede Price. We will add an educator and a second finance representative.
· It will eventually operate as a recognized Catholic school by the Archdiocese of St. Louis guided by an Association of the Christian Faithful (essentially, the Governing Board). An Association of the Christian Faithful is one of only three ways, under both canon law & civil law, for a Catholic school to operate.
· A five day per week format for grades K-8. Pre-school is a real possibility given the current number of pre-school aged children whose parents have expressed interest.
· Combined classroom format. (For example, grades 1 & 2, 3 & 4, etc. Final determination will depend on number of students in each grade level).
· Small class sizes will allow teachers to know our children and their learning styles. Students will be valued for their individual potential and uniqueness.
An “A-Team” line-up of experienced, caring teachers. We are actively in conversation with several current GA teachers. We hope to share their names with you on Wednesday evening.
We are proposing a classical curriculum that will be developed once the teachers are hired. Although Gateway’s curriculum is proprietary to NCE, we will use things you are familiar with as a basis for further development.
· Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once per week, First Friday confessions and Benediction. There is a possibility of offering mass more frequently depending upon both the proximity of the school to St Louis Abbey and the availability of monk-priests. The thought is that in the first year we would only have the new Mass in English. In time we would want to introduce the children to both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass, but for now it is important to keep to what they are used to having. The opportunity to teach the children to chant the ordinary of the Mass exists and would serve both forms.
· Seven possible locations are under consideration. 95% of current GA families live west of 270 so the location must be convenient. A map showing the radius of the locations under consideration will be provided at the meeting.
· 50 students at a tuition of $5,000 each would make the plan a definite “go”. Currently there are 42 students that have expressed serious interest. Additional costs would include a book fee and uniforms. There will be no additional registration fee.
· We believe it is a fundamental obligation to reach out to families who are not in a position to pay the full tuition. Financial aid will be a reality in the future, but we must make the present happen first. There are benefactors interested in providing help for students in the future, but they are not willing to cover basic operating expenses. Therefore, all operating costs must be covered by tuition. This school must begin on a firm financial foundation and it is our intent not to ever run it at a deficit.
· Family Contracts will be provided at the Wednesday meeting for your review and will be due by 7:00PM on April 18 with a 20% per student deposit ($1,000) to be held in escrow. If we do not achieve the goal of 50 students, this deposit will be fully refunded.
· The school will be named The St. Austin School, under the patronage of St. Augustine of Canterbury. In our zeal to stop calling it “a potential new school for GA families”, and in deference to Mr. Jim Bick, St. Thomas More Academy seemed like a fine choice. However, after careful thought, it was agreed by all at Sunday’s meeting that it would behoove us, given our new relationship with the monks, to name the school after a Benedictine saint.
· There will be an absolute need for parental involvement. Practical needs will be identified (lunchroom, recess, fundraising, secretarial, etc.) and all families will be expected to contribute in some way.
The Benedictines are an established order that has been part of the Catholic Church since the 6th century…that’s right…over 1400 years of experience and stability are within our reach! All that is needed is for you to consider the possibility that this could work for your children. We realize that you may have concerns about certain aspects of this school. For example, the thought of combined classrooms may give you pause, but please consider the following: Prior to World War II and the Baby Boom, combined classrooms were the norm. For most of us, the concept of combined grade levels is a foreign concept, but it actually allows brighter students to work ahead and others to proceed at a more reasonable pace. The small class size and individual attention from our teachers will insure that students are working at the right pace. In fact, we have discovered that many GA parents are the product of combined classrooms. Just ask yourself if our schools have improved or deteriorated over the past 50+ years before deciding whether or not to explore this concept just a bit further. For some of us issues like this require a leap of faith, for others it’s just a small hop, and yet for others it’s tantamount to jumping across the Grand Canyon.
Our humble request is this: If you have searched for a new school and are convincing yourself to compromise, or if you have chosen a school, but still have a gnawing feeling that it’s not exactly the right fit for some unidentifiable reason, we urge you to attend on Wednesday. Father Bede Price of St. Louis Abbey will be joining us. Take this opportunity to hear about the school first-hand. Before you make the decision to put your child in a classroom of 30 children with teachers and families that may or may not share your values, spend an hour with us. Your investment is nothing more than one hour of your time. This school will be what we make it. Conversely, it will never be what you want if you don’t show up.
The meeting on Wednesday is our final opportunity to meet as group before the April 18 decision deadline.
The meeting on Monday, April 18th will be at 7:00PM at the Oratory of Ss. Gregory & Augustine. We hope to see you there!