KENOSHA — Catholics living in western Kenosha County west of I-94 love the rural atmosphere, but also love a Catholic education for their children.

Johanna Mickelson works with fourth-grader Thaddeus Barr on spelling at Providence Catholic School in Paris Township in Kenosha County March 24. In the fall, Providence will merge with All Saints Catholic School, Kenosha, to become All Saints Catholic School-West. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)Those two loves don’t always mix as small enrollments in country schools can make it difficult to keep those schools open.

Now, one of the larger schools in the archdiocese, along with one of the smallest, are pairing up in a unique partnership promising to strengthen both schools.

All Saints Catholic School in Kenosha, with an enrollment of 585, will expand outside its traditional borders west to include students attending Providence Catholic School where enrollment is 64.

Providence, located in Paris, six miles south of Union Grove, will remain open as the third of three All Saints campuses.

The partnership took root after Providence principal Greg Young approached Fr. Russ Arnett, pastor of Saint John the Baptist Parish, Paris, and St. Francis Xavier Parish, Brighton, where Providence is located, about concerns with enrollment.

“We had just one student in first grade and three in kindergarten,” Young said.

Young feared that within a couple of years the school would not survive at current enrollment projections.

After several months of searching for alternatives, including busing students or relocating the school to a more populated area, officials from All Saints made it known they were looking to expand to the west.

“It was an ideal solution that came out of the blue,” Fr. Arnett said. “It’s an incredibly fantastic opportunity to keep Catholic education alive in western Kenosha County.”

Archdiocesan schools superintendent Dr. Kathleen Cepelka said the partnership is a great example of how a regional school can be expanded to include other schools that could benefit from the strengths of the originating school.

She said All Saints is now partnering “with a school that was serving the Providence Catholic area, but couldn’t be sustained as a single school.”

“The term I would use is an example of Catholic education synergy in which a strong originating school can K4 and K5 students pray before their snack break at Providence Catholic School in Paris Township in Kenosha County, Tuesday, March 24. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)provide benefits to a school that is important, but struggling, and partner with it to benefit both communities,” Cepelka said.

She said All Saints is the kind of school “that can offer a hand with assistance.”

Initially, Fr. Arnett was concerned with the loss of identity and control among students and parents of Providence.
“But the benefits far outweighed the negatives,” Fr. Arnett said.

The combined parishes have about 1,400 families.

First-year enrollment at the Providence campus is expected to be 72, with student numbers growing to more than 120 in a few years.

Fr. Arnett said some of benefits of the partnership for Providence include:

  • Expanded opportunities for students in fine arts, including music,
  • State-of-the-art technology with Smartboards in every classroom and Google Chrome available to all students on computer notebooks used in the classrooms,
  • Algebra in eighth grade,
  • Uniform “best practices” curriculum in all grades on all campuses.

“I’m very happy we can bring things to Providence that we can’t have now,” Fr. Arnett said. “Our bookkeeping and marketing will all be done by All Saints. They have a very sophisticated and aggressive marketing team.”

Dr. Jackie Lichter, principal at All Saints, said she is excited to see Catholic education grow.

“I think we have a wonderful school. To be able to share that with the broader community is a good thing,” Lichter said.

All Saints opened its doors in 2011 with 35 students in its first year. Steady growth has pushed enrollment to the 585 mark.

All Saints is supported by 10 parishes in Kenosha while four parishes support Providence. Twelve priests from the combined 14 parishes will sit on the All Saints school board.

“This is a real lifeline we’ve thrown their (Providence) way so we could keep Catholic education alive west of the interstate. They really want to see a Catholic school accessible to them,” Lichter said.