But the plan announced to school families Monday by Bishop Kevin Rhoades calls for the schools to separate in order to accommodate expected growth in enrollment. In the fall of 2014, St. Joe will become an independent school offering classes in pre-k through fifth grade, with an additional class through the eighth grade being added in each of the three successive years.
St. Elizabeth, meanwhile, will offer pre-k through eighth grade starting in the fall of 2014. The facility there will probably have to be enlarged to accommodate additional classes, said Mark Myers, school superintendent for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The sports teams will remain combined for now, and bus service will be offered to students at St. Joseph, which starting in 2014 will be led by Principal Cristy Jordan, who is concluding studies at the University of Notre Dame. The two schools will feed into Bishop Luers High School.
Myers said the change will allow both schools to accept more students than the current arrangement can handle.
“We don’t want any child to be turned away,” said Myers, who noted that the state’s voucher program – recently upheld as constitutional by the Indiana Supreme Court – has made Catholic and other parochial schools an option for many families that could not previously afford them. Many low- and moderate-income families live near St. Joseph, which Myers said could also appeal to the sizeable Hispanic population living nearby. “We want it to be a true neighborhood school,” he added.
The combined school currently has about 490 students, making it the largest Catholic school in southwest Fort Wayne, according to its web site.