After providing Catholic education in Janesville for more than 150 years, St. Patrick School will close its doors at the end of this school year.
The decision was announced at masses last weekend, but the school’s fate had been in question for the past several months—and for many years before that—as enrollment declined.
This year, the school has 11 students in grades K-8 and 11 more in a 4-year-old kindergarten program that is partially funded by state and federal money.
Recently, the parish council and the parish finance council met separately to discuss the school’s future, said Brent King, director of communications for the Diocese of Madison.
“This enrollment, a continued projected decline, and the fact that the operational cost of the school is over $200,000 per year, led both councils to recommend the school’s closure to Fr. Tim Renz,” King wrote in an email to The Gazette.
On Saturday, Renz contacted Bishop Robert Morlino to tell him about the councils’ recommendation, King wrote.
“At the same time, the decision was made, by the parish, to announce this recommendation to the parish community at weekend Masses,” King wrote.
St. Patrick’s was the first Catholic church in Janesville. The church opened its doors in 1845, and starting in 1870, classes were held at St. Joseph’s Convent. Construction began on the existing school in 1919, and the cornerstone was laid in 1920.
A three-room addition was built in 1950.
At its peak, more than 550 students attended the school, according to Gazette records.
In 1970, the school nearly closed after the Sisters of Mercy informed the parish that the order could no longer provide enough teachers to staff the school.
The parish decided it wanted the school to stay open. The cost to do so was $45 per family, and each child was charged a $25 book fee. About 200 students attended the school at the time. The parish, which had always supported the school, agreed to pick up the additional costs.
Some of St. Patrick’s traditions, such as Saturday night bingo, started as fundraisers for the school. The bingo program ended in December.
The decision to close the school also comes about a year after the four Catholic churches in Janesville surveyed their congregations about their support for parochial schools. At that time, total enrollment in the city’s four Catholic schools was 594.
Of those, about 70 were St. Patrick students.
King stressed that the decision to close St. Patrick was not based on the survey results.
“The conversation among the four Janesville parishes about the schools is ongoing, and the diocese anticipates the results of that collaboration with optimism,” King said.