ST. FRANCIS — The Catholic Schools Commission of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee finished an evaluation of high school and elementary buildings last June and is assessing the areas for improvement.
“The maintenance is reasonably good at all the places,” John Stollenwerk, chairman of the Catholic Schools Commission, said, explaining the goal of the study was to understand the physical condition of the schools.
“We knew, more or less, what the enrollment statistics were, we knew what the capacity of the schools was, but we did not know how that might have changed over the years,” Stollenwerk said. “I think where we fall down are in some areas of conservation, so to speak.”
Stollenwerk said electrical and heating systems within some schools need to change.
“In a lot of places, the systems are old and will eventually need to be upgraded,” Stollenwerk said. “In general, the schools are in good physical shape.”
The study was started in June 2011 and conducted by Clarence Krusinski of the Chicago-based firm Krusinski Group, along with four student volunteers from Marquette University. It cost approximately $100,000 and was financed with donations from the Stollenwerk Family Foundation, the Erica P. John Fund, and Tom and Lynne Van Himbergen.
The results of the study were made available to all school and parish administrators this year on a password protected website.
Krusinski agreed that the schools were in good shape but some systems for heating and electricity need to be updated.
“It’s not from neglect; it’s from age (or) lack of funds,” Krusinski said. “The individual schools were doing their job.”
Krusinski said surveyors went to each school in the summer of 2011, took photos and interviewed maintenance people, principals and pastors.
“If you talk to a principal you get one perspective. If you talk to a pastor you get another perspective. If you talk to a maintenance person you get a third perspective,” Krusinski said. “My favorite question to ask someone is, ‘How old is the new roof?’ Because everybody has a new roof. I added mine to my house 16 years ago, but I still call it the ‘new roof.’”
The study assessed each school’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and found that 41 of the 123 schools were “not compliant” and 16 were marked “n/a” or not applicable.
Using 2010 U.S. Census data, the study included information about the demographics of the area surrounding the school such as gender, ethnic makeup and number of nearby schools.
“If we look and see that one of our schools is dropping in enrollment, that could be that the reason might be that there are three other private schools and two public schools within a mile of the place,” Stollenwerk said. “This told us a lot about the neighborhood.”
The website will be maintained and updated by the archdiocese.
“The idea is that they can interact and keep perspective in the immediate,” Krusinski said.
Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese, said the purpose of the study is to see the “big picture” for archdiocesan planning in Catholic schools.
“It really is intended to be a help for local and regional planning,” Cepelka said. “It tells us where we have our strongest facilities for archdiocesan purposes … for usage and so forth.”
Cepelka said the facilities and technology committee within the Catholic Schools Commission will begin to make recommendations to schools that need upgrades.
“It’s a pretty sophisticated way of presenting the information,” Cepelka said. “I’m going to be more pleased to keep this updated.”