Catholic Schools Merge in Jackson

Email to Jackson Area Catholic Schools Parents

This decision was made locally, after consultation with the Bishop, the
Office of Catholic Schools for the Diocese and the principals of JCMS and
Lumen Christi.  We, your pastors, have a deep, shared commitment to keeping
Catholic education affordable and accessible while maintaining the highest
quality and standards.  As this was a decision of the local pastors, all
questions, comments and concerns for the time being would best be addressed
at the local level rather than the Diocese, who only played an advisory role
in these discussions.  Many of the details have yet to be ironed out.  We
envision that all sports programs will continue, as will extra curriculars
and bussing, but it is premature for us to discuss changes in tuition or
subsidies.  Soon, we will announce the date and time for a public meeting
allowing a forum for your questions and concerns to be addressed.

The decision was made after long and careful deliberation.  Enrollment
projections for both schools and recent enrollment trends show us that the
Jackson Catholic community is becoming smaller, so too is the pool of
students we can draw from to fill the classrooms of our five campuses.  With
no immediate sign of an economic recovery or upturn, now is the time to make
bold decisions to better position ourselves for the future.  This is a
proactive decision intended to strengthen both the middle school and high
school programs by sharing faculty and administrative staff, reducing costs
and better preparing our students to be leaders in the church and in the

It's a plan that's been in the works for years, but next academic year, a merger between Jackson Catholic Middle School and Lumen Christi High School will be a reality.

Starting in 2014-2015, the schools will still be separate entities, but will share facilities. It's a move that pastors and educators alike are calling a win-win situation.

"When you have smaller schools, it's hard to offer everything you can in the way of academics," said Elaine Crosby, coordinator of the Jackson Catholic Schools Consortium. "So with combining these two schools, we can get the best of the best teachers, we can get the best resources and kids can get a better education."

Middle school and high school students will be in separate wings and will wear different uniforms, but may share resources and teachers.

"Lumen Christi has tons of space and we're hoping that those kids in the middle school will transition to the high school, it's a logical place to have them on the same campus and share facilities and good instruction," said Father Timothy Nelson, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea.

Lumen Christi has plenty of space. The school was originally built to accommodate 1,500 students but has never filled to capacity. Now, with enrollment on the decline, slightly more than 400 students attend.

"There's still a whole side of this school that's not being used," said Crosby. "It's really just a storage room. If you build a big house you fill up all the rooms, but there's a lot of storage and certainly a lot of classrooms available."

Parents received emails Friday announcing the consolidation. Nelson says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The decision was made for the betterment of the children and I think it's a smoother transition for them," said Steve Dunigan, a parent of a seventh-grade student. "It just makes sense. We have to watch our costs, so I think it would take the best use of our facilities and the staffing here at both schools."

While educators say the move is a definite, many of the logistics are up in the air. Jackson Area Catholic Schools are asking for public input on the best way to make the transition work. A public forum will be held October 24.

Lumen Christi Principal Chris Smith said cuts to the teaching staff are yet to be determined. Enrollment numbers and retirements must be calculated first.

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