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Published: Friday, 11/4/2005

St. Ursula studying expansion


The all-female St. Ursula Academy high school is considering expanding to include sixth through eighth grades at its West Toledo location.

The school sent out questionnaires this week to parents and alumnae in response to inquiries it has received.

"We don't know whether or not we are going to do it, but we have had enough parents ask us to prompt us doing a study," said Pamala Mohler, school spokesman.

St. Ursula would be the second Toledo Catholic high school to fold middle school grades into its operations. The all-male St. John's Jesuit High School opened an academy for seventh and eighth-grade boys in 2004.

At the time, Catholic school educators thought that would be a blow to the traditional kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, which had experienced enrollment declines over several years.

Chris Knight, principal of St. John's academy, said the program has been popular but has not had a negative impact on kindergarten through eighth-grade Catholic schools.

"We have had a lot of interest, especially this time of year," Mr. Knight said.

He said St. John's has been contacted by other Catholic high school leaders asking for information about operating such an academy. He declined to name the schools.

The St. John's academy, which has 30 boys in seventh grade and 33 in eighth grade, is a three-year pilot program approved last year by Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair.

Jack Altenburger, superintendent of Toledo Catholic Schools, said St. Ursula would need permission from the bishop to make such a significant change.

"When the St. John's pilot was approved, the bishop said he would listen to other proposals, and if one is coming, I'm sure he will consider it," Mr. Altenburger said. "We don't want to harm ourselves and make radical changes that impact other schools."

A 32-member task force that studied the elementary Catholic schools in the Toledo metropolitan area recommended in January that four schools be closed.

In February, Bishop Blair announced the diocese would close St. Hyacinth, St. Agnes, and St. Hedwig schools, but he spared St. Elizabeth Seton school, which had been recommended for closure.

Mr. Altenburger said the same task force is examining the growth of Catholic education in the suburbs. He said the diocese might discuss building schools to meet that demand.

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