St. Paul School in Worthington Closing

Declining number of students prompts community decision

By Dan Russo | Witness Staff Writer

November 19, 2014

he current building for St. Paul School is pictured. The school, started in 1874, has had several buildings over its 140 year history, including a high school at one point. It now educates students in grades K-6. (Photo by Craig Purcell/Dyersville Commercial)WORTHINGTON — After 140 years educating students, St. Paul Catholic School in Worthington will be closing its doors.

“St. Paul enrollment has dropped to 26 students in grades K-6,” said Principal Jayne Intlekofer. “The prospect of increasing enrollment sufficiently to cover future increases in school operations was not realistic. With reserves exhausted, the board of education concluded that continuing the school would eventually jeopardize the financial stability of the parish.”

School families, parish leaders, and arch­diocesan officials met and prayerfully deliberated before the St. Paul School board made the official decision Oct. 31 that the school would close after the 2014-2015 school year.

“We are grateful for the many sacrifices on the part of religious sisters, faculty, staff, families and priests for over 140 years that have provided a strong Catholic formation for our students,” reflected Father Dennis Quint, pastor of St. Paul Parish, part of the Spires of Faith cluster. “Now we hope to transition current students to other Catholic elementary schools in our area.”

There are several Catholic schools in the area, the closest of which is St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Dyersville.

“St. Paul School is gathering information for parents and will work with the six Catholic schools within driving distance to provide tours and/or open houses for parents,” said Intlekofer. “A survey will go to parents to identify the choice they have made for their children.”

“When the schools are identified, St. Paul will arrange visits for the children so they will know what their next school will be like,” said the principal.

St. Paul School employs four full-time teachers, two part-time teachers, lunch and office staff and custodians. The Dubuque Archdiocesan Catholic School system plans to offer assistance to these employees during the transition.

“Later in this school year we will meet with (staff) to help them with their job search,” said Archdiocesan School Superintendent Jeff Henderson. “We will put their names out there for positions within the Catholic school system.”

Henderson and Intlekofer both indicated that St. Paul School is committed to finishing the year on a high note.

“I think, most importantly, we want to thank everyone (at St. Paul’s) who worked tirelessly to make the school strong and vibrant, even as they faced these issues,” said Henderson. “They’re going to continue to do that until the end of the school year.”

St. Paul School has a rich history. Members of St. Paul’s Parish founded the school in 1874. In 1878, three Franciscan Sisters from Dubuque took over instruction of the students. By 1916, both a high school and elementary school existed with eight sisters on the faculty and about 230 grade and high school students attending. With the opening of Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville in 1966, high school classes ceased. Seventh and eighth grade students also began being bused to Beckman at that time as part of a shared program. The kindergarten program at St. Paul School was implemented in 1983. Sister Alice Schaefer, OSF, was the last Franciscan to teach at the school, retiring in 1992.

Intlekofer, who has served as principal for nine years, is among many over the generations whose lives have been positively impacted by the school.

“I am grateful my path led to St. Paul School,” she said. “I have met the most passionate, dedicated and wonderful people here. The staff, students, parents, parish and community have enriched my life in many wonderful ways.”