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St. Pius X School closes doors after 140 years

St. Pius X Catholic School officially closed its doors May 23 after providing nearly 140 years of elementary education for children in Glencoe and surrounding areas.
The decision was made by Bishop John M. LeVoir, New Ulm Diocese, upon recommendation by the Rev. Anthony Stubeda, who studied the situation in depth with the help of the parish and educational committees.
“For the last four or five years we have been struggling financially with the school,” said Stubeda, who has been the priest at St. Pius X since 2007.
For that reason, in December 2016, the Parish Administrative Council and the Home and School Committee (HandS) had a joint meeting where information was presented about population decline, financial issues and future demographics. At the meeting, it was recommended that the parish close the school.
In early January, St. Pius X had an open parish meeting where the same information was presented and the decision to close the school was made public.
“Even with all of our creative thinking of how to make it work, it was still the case that the parish was putting in two-thirds of the cost of the school. We are now in the position where we are unable to continue to make that work,” said Stubeda. “The only way for us to maintain the school would be to really do what we thought would hurt the education of the children, which we were not willing to do. We are very proud of our school, we are very happy with our school, and it is not closing because there were issues with the education.”
One decision that was made to help contain costs was to combine many of the classes together. For the past three years, first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth grades have been taught together. The 2016-2017 school year is the first since 1980 that does not have a kindergarten class, and the last year of preschool for St. Pius X was the 2011-2012 school year. There were 39 students enrolled in first through sixth grades in 2016-17, with three teachers and three teacher aides.
St. Pius X Catholic School has a long history that begins way back in 1877. During the first year of classes, the students were taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. A short year later, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Our Lady of Lourdes began to teach (they committed themselves until 1992). The first classes took place in the church with a blanket separating the children from the sanctuary and, since then, two other buildings have been erected for the Catholic school. The first was built in 1885 (which was updated and moved in 1917) and the current building was built and opened in 1962 by St. George and Sts. Peter and Paul’s parishes. This also is when the school was formally given the name of St. Pius X Catholic School.
Karen Thalmann, who has been teaching first grade at St. Pius X for 20 years, has enjoyed a lifetime of memories at St. Pius X. She, along with all of her siblings, attended school at St. Pius X, as did her parents and her own children.  
Thalmann is proud of how supportive the enrolled families have been, despite the impending closing date for the school.
“Our parents have been phenomenal with supporting the school even with knowing that this was the last year,” she said. “We had a fundraiser goal of $10,000 with 26 families and we almost made our goal, which is amazing. The parents have supported us 100 percent through this year.”
Emily Popelka, who attended St. Pius X from preschool through sixth grade, firmly believes her education at St. Pius was instrumental to her own academic and spiritual life.
“I believe that my motivation to excel in school stems from attending St. Pius,” said Popelka. “We were held to high learning standards and we were given the necessary resources available to help us succeed. I also think that my relationship with God would not be as strong if I had not had the foundation of my faith built in elementary school.”
“It was very good at what it was for,” said Stubeda. “Besides providing a good education for kids, it also helped give the children a strong, Catholic understanding of the world. It will be a loss to us.”  
The last day of school for St. Pius X was May 23.
The school building will continue to be used for Religious Education classes and parish events — at this time no plans have been made to rent the space out to an outside organization.
A commemoration event to celebrate the happy memories and long years of St. Pius X is expected to take place sometime this summer.