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Published: 8/4/2005

Charter school moves to St. Stephen site

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Another former Toledo Catholic school ordered closed by the diocese because of declining enrollment will reopen later this month as a charter school.

Eagle Academy, which had been operating in the former Macomber Vocational High School, 1501 Monroe St., will open Aug. 24 in the former St. Stephen School, 2014 Consaul St.

"The main reason for the move was to provide a location that could allow school programs to grow," said Kelly Updike, a spokesman for the Leona Group of East Lansing, Mich., which operates six charter schools in the Toledo area, including Eagle Academy. "Parent support was a big driver for the new location."

Eagle Academy is a kindergarten through sixth grade charter school that enrolled 124 students last academic year.

Ms. Updike said the Leona group will lease the St. Stephen building, which was closed at the end of the 2003-04 school year.

Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair announced in February the Toledo diocese would close three more Catholic schools - St. Hyacinth, St. Agnes, and St. Hedwig - at the end of 2004-2005 academic year because of low enrollment.

Toledo Public Schools, which lost just over 5,500 students to charter schools and with them $37.6 million in subsidies last school year, decided to sponsor a charter school at the St. Hyacinth building: The Imani Learning Academy.

The transformation of St. Stephen and St. Hyacinth into charter schools is part of a growing trend.

Three other former Toledo Catholic schools - St. Martin de Porres, St. Mary, and St. Jude - were turned into charter schools soon after the diocese ordered them closed.

The Englewood Peace Academy leased the former St. Martin de Porres school building, and the Autism Academy of Learning took over the former St. Mary school.

George A. Phillips Academy, a kindergarten through eighth grade charter school housed in the former St. Jude school, announced yesterday it is moving its sixth through eight grades to another building. Starting Aug. 24, when school opens, those grades will be at 540 Independence Rd., which also houses the Fraternal Order of Police.

Kindergarten through fifth grades will remain in the former St. Jude school.

Jack Altenburger, superintendent of education for Toledo Catholic schools, said the church needs to be careful not to lose children to charter schools.

"We do not want to compete with ourselves," Mr. Altenburger said. "Every time we close a building, we get inquiries - almost immediately - from charter school organizations interested in moving in."

Fourteen charter schools sponsored by the Lucas County Educational Service Center, the state's largest sponsor of charter schools with 109, are housed in former parochial schools, Director Jim George said.

An additional 18 out of the agency's 109 schools are housed in church complexes or buildings that were not previously schools - such as Summit Academy, which operates in Collingwood United Methodist Church.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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