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The Sisters of St. Francis have announced the site of a Catholic elementary school that closed at the end of the school year will become home to Lourdes University programs and a Franciscan Health counseling center.
Franciscan Academy is the former K-8 school operated by Lourdes University on property owned by the Sisters of St. Francis.
Franciscan sisters founded the school in 1973, and the university took over operations in 2009.
Sister Mary Jon Wagner, congregational minister, said the 36,600-square-foot building at 5335 Silica Dr. will be used for Lourdes University’s fine arts program, the graduate admissions office, and some graduate classes. The university’s graduate admissions office is currently in a trailer.
In addition, the former school will house some services of Sophia Center, also located on the Sisters’ Motherhouse Grounds. The counseling center is a part of Sylvania Franciscan Health, sponsored by the sisters.
The Catholic Franciscan Academy announced in January it would close after Lourdes said it could no longer afford to operate the school.
Lourdes officials said the university spent $500,000 subsidizing the grade school since 2009. Franciscan Academy was projected to lose another $90,000 in the 2014-15 school year.
Many parents were angered at the closing. Some believed university officials closed the school because of plans to extend the Lourdes campus, rather than because of financial woes.
Sister Mary Jon emphasized Friday that the decision to close Franciscan Academy was an economic one.
She said that after the academy closed the sisters “went into a discernment process on how it would best serve mission and ministry of sisters.”
“We put it out to the sisters and the sisters came back with suggestions and we discussed it with Dr. Livingston,” she said.
Lourdes President David Livingston said that four rooms will be used for university purposes.
Art students will have space in the building to fire ceramics in kilns and work on projects in various mediums.
Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, resident ceramic mural artist whose works are nationally recognized, shares her Alverno Studio with art students.
This move will allow her to expand her working space, Sister Mary Jon said.
Mr. Livingston estimated that a total of 140 to 150 students and staff will use the building. Night classes also will be held there.
The former school sits on nearly 10 acres and has a large wooded area to the south.
Preliminary plans show that about 170 parking spaces may be added on the southern end. The site currently has 72 parking spaces north of the building.
The Sisters of St. Francis and the university said they do not know how much it will cost to prepare the school for its new use. Officials aim to have it operational by early 2015.
The Sisters of St. Francis submitted a request to Sylvania City Council to rezone the parcel from R-2 residential small lot, to R-1 residential large lot, which would allow for a secondary education building to exist there.
The entire Motherhouse Grounds is zoned as R-2.
The request is on the council agenda Monday to be referred to the planning commission.