“We’re in the data-collecting stage at this point,” said the Rev. Ron Schmit of St. Anne. “But we’ve already received a lot of positive feedback. It’s a pot that’s been boiling for a while.”
Long a planned component of the St. Anne community, the reality of a school on the 10-acre site in Bryon has slowly begun taking shape as church members and parish officials have expressed interest in offering a parochial education to area residents. Slated as a K-8 facility, beginning with the lower grade levels first and growing as enrollment rises, the project is estimated to be a two- to three-year process.
“Right now there is only Holy Rosary in Antioch,” said Patti Bristow, a member of the church school committee and a longtime Bryon resident. “And I believe there are a lot of families out here who would welcome the option. I think it would be a great lift for Byron, where church communities of all faiths come together. It’s something we’re very excited about.”
Heather Partida, a Brentwood Union School District Board trustee, employee of the Oakley Union Elementary School District and member of St. Anne, believes there is both room –and a need – for alternative education options in East County.
“Obviously education is important to me in all of its incarnations, whether it be public, private or something else altogether,” said Partida, whose two daughters would be too old for school by the time the project is completed. “I know that there is a portion of the population whose preference is that their faith be intertwined with their child’s education, and St. Anne is a wonderful parish full of young families. I think a school would be a welcome addition.”
Father Ron agreed. “I think a (Catholic) school would answer the needs on this side of the Delta,” he said. “It would help to bookend the Delta.”
However, given the tepid state of the economy and diocese coffers, financing for a proposed school, which would cost millions of dollars, has yet to be secured. The money most likely would be raised through private donations and the church community. But with an empty school site sitting just a few miles away – Old River Elementary – might a partnership with neighboring Knightsen be a viable option?
“Certainly we are open to all possibilities,” said Father Ron. “But right now we’re just in the information-gathering stage. We’ll see what the interest is first.”
Parochial education has always been a popular option for families looking to instill their faith in all aspects of their children’s lives, and Catholic schools have enjoyed a reputation for providing quality education for secular students as well as church members. Typically offering K-8 classes, a school at St. Anne would provide an option for the parish’s roughly 1,200 members as well as the community at large.
“My daughter went through the Catholic school system,” said Bristow. “And in my opinion, the religious environment helped develop core values and create a wonderful educational partnership among the parents, parish and child. I believe this is just what the community needs.”
Interested residents are invited to share their thoughts by taking the online survey at www.stannechurchbyron.com and clicking the link on the right side of the home page: “Catholic school education survey.”