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St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth to split, form 2 Catholic schools

Beginning in the fall of 2014, St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School will split to form two separate schools.

For the last 15 years, the school has operated as a joint school on two different campuses. The St. Joseph campus on Brooklyn Avenue serves students in grades 5 through 8; St. Elizabeth on Aboite Center Road serves students in preschool through grade 4.

The joint school was supported by both St. Joseph Parish and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish.

In August, the schools will separate, forming St. Joseph Catholic School, which will serve students in kindergarten through grade 5, and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, which will serve students in preschool through grade 8.

St. Joseph school will begin adding middle-school grades in 2015 until it serves students through grade 8 as well.

“We’re just very excited about it,” said the school’s current principal, Lois Widner, who will lead St. Elizabeth when the school splits. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

A committee formed by Bishop Kevin Rhoades recommended the schools split, according to a news release.

The site for St. Elizabeth School will require expansion to be funded by a capital campaign at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Widner said. She didn’t know how much the expansion would cost. A call to the parish pastor was not returned Monday.

The addition will add 10 to 11 classrooms, a media center and office space, Widner said.

The changes are the result of growth at the joint school, Widner said. She attributed the increase in students to families moving into the area southwest of the city and families transferring to the school from other districts such as Southwest Allen County Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Vouchers have also played a role in the growth, but have not been the main factor, she said.

More students can afford the cost of tuition at private and parochial schools because of the state’s choice scholarship program, which provides a publicly funded voucher to families who meet certain income and other requirements.

Widner said that of the total 536 students enrolled in the school, 51 students use vouchers to attend.

The plan was announced at the end of April by Bishop Rhoades during a parent, faculty and staff meeting, according to the release.