TIPTON – After a 129-year run, St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Tipton will close its doors at the end of the school year.
May 23 will be the permanent last day of school for the seven teachers, the principal, secretary and 59 students currently enrolled in preschool through fifth grade at the school. More than 160 students attended the school in the ‘70s.
Declining enrollment at both the school and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church prompted the difficult decision, which had been discussed on and off for the past 20 years, said the Rev. Christopher Shocklee.
“We’ve been looking at a pattern of enrollment and the parish membership, and both have been declining,” said Shocklee, who has been with the parish for 10 months. “As a Catholic parish, we need to focus on growing the numbers of the church.”
The Parish Council made its recommendation to close the school April 21 as part of a town hall meeting, and Shocklee voiced his support for the decision the following day. A letter was sent home to parents that day so they could tell their children the news.
Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette, of which St. John’s is a part, finalized the move, and the whole parish was notified April 27.
“Parents had some awareness this was happening,” Shocklee said, referencing a public meeting in March where the possibility was discussed. “It’s been very emotional for pretty much everyone. Nobody wanted to close the school, but it was a realization that it’s what we needed to choose.”
The decision seemed sudden to Debbie Tragesser, whose two children attend St. John’s. She was not aware there was a possibility of the school closing at the end of the school year, and she said she was given the impression from the church leadership that St. John’s had at least another two years to raise enrollment.