by Cori Hilsgen
Due to a decline in sixth-grade enrollment, St. Joseph Catholic School, a pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade school, will not be offering a sixth-grade option after the 2020-2021 school year.
Karl Terhaar has been the principal at the school for 13 years.
He said there has been an increase in the number of students who have chosen to leave the school after fifth-grade to attend area sixth- through eighth-grade middle school options and this has created a decline in enrollment.
Discontinuing sixth grade will create a few changes at the school. An additional room will be added to the Montessori preschool program, which had a waiting list last year.
Several teachers will be reassigned to different grade levels. Sixth-grade teacher Susan Huls will move to fifth grade, Tess Koltes will move from fifth grade to third grade, Robin Kremer will move from third grade to second grade and Betty Pundsack will retire from teaching second grade after more than 40 years at the school.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but given the growing interest in our Montessori preschool, the financial liability of maintaining a sixth grade with declining enrollment, and Pundsack’s retirement, it made sense to discontinue offering sixth grade and put more efforts towards expanding our preschool,” Terhaar said.
The school has the most degreed staff of all the Catholic schools in the St. Cloud Diocese.
The school has been offering sixth grade since the building opened back in 1926. The 1967-68 school year was the last year the school offered kindergarten through eighth grade options and restructured grades to include kindergarten through sixth grade options in 1968-69. Currently, the school has 36 preschool students and 105 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
St. Joseph Catholic School is part of the consolidated Catholic Community Schools that provides a centralized administrative system, allowing principals at individual schools to focus on teaching/learning and supporting teachers, students and families and allows pastors to focus on the spiritual needs of their parishes and schools.