Parents trying to save Canton’s St. Mary’s School; meeting planned Wednesday
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - 2:51 pm

CANTON -- Facing the reality of a possible closure, St. Mary’s School’s Rev. Bryan Stitt approached a group of people including school parents, parishioners, and staff to help gather information about possibilities available to save the school.

School families and parishioners can meet to discuss the options facing St. Mary’s School on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 6:45 p.m. in the St. Mary’s gym at 2 Powers St.

If the school decides to move to “Classical Catholic Education,” next month teachers would begin training to implement the new curriculum. Otherwise, the school will likely close at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Father Stitt and all three parish councils received recommendation from parents and other stakeholders to transition to the Classical Catholic Education model instead of closing, according to Kelly Deschamps, a parent of students at St. Mary’s.

“Since moving to Canton two and a half years ago, I was haunted by the persistent rumor that St. Mary’s School could imminently close. When that rumor became an impending reality I owed it to my kids, who love the school, to find a solution. I discovered it in Classical Education which is a model that ensures parents that their children will have the proper moral, theological, and academic foundations they will need in life,” Deschamps said in an email to North Country Now.

Father Stitt said the Classic Catholic Education model would still include a religious curriculum, but might appeal to a wider range of people. Currently the school has 74 students enrolled across 45 families, but said a goal of 100 students enrolled would make the school more economically viable.

“It’s a novel thing it’s happening across the country. There are probably hundreds of schools that have made this pivot that we are considering,” he said.

There have been concerns that the religious identity will somehow change with this shift in the curriculum, but Father Stitt said in some ways it will be similar, including a faith component. He said the curriculum would focus on cross-connecting subjects.

“We have always been a Catholic school, we are a Catholic school today and we will continue to be a Catholic school. We currently have a diverse student population that is roughly 50 percent Catholic. We will continue to welcome and serve families of all faiths looking to enroll their children in a deep and rigorous education in a safe, warm and loving environment,” Deschamps said in the email.

"We see schools saved from the brink of closure and quickly revitalized when teachers are freed to teach in a way that nurtures a child's natural development," said Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, which works for growth and renewal in Catholic schools. "Teachers are amazed at the immediate boost in classroom dynamics, and principals are often stunned at the jump in standardized testing when we stop limiting ourselves to their flat horizon."

For more information on the Classical Education program, visit the parent resource section at https://www.stmaryscantonny.com/learn-about-classical-education.