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Catholic school remains strong and stable

When the 2013-2014 school year begins Tuesday, Sept. 4, about 280 students will return to classes at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School. Additional children attend the preschool and kindergarten at the church.

That number has remained consistent for years.

There is a reason for it, according to principal Dr. Jill Moes.

"I believe we remain strong because of our location — we are not competing with another Catholic school in Hastings," she said. "We not only have the parish's support, but the community supports us.

"Then, too, we have this amazing relationship with the public schools," she said, "and that goes back to Ken LaCroix (former superintendent), and it continues."

The school has a strong partnership with the Hastings Middle School where Seton students participate in a shared time program which includes science, family life and some health classes.

Through a partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Independent School Forum, Seton School is now a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) School. These individual program offerings at the school are now enhanced through available materials and resources.

Plus, teachers Clara Schultz and Stacie Bauer received a grant to install a "Butterfly Garden" to attract butterflies to the school. Students will plant the garden, including plants and the wildlife habitat. They can analyze how this is affected by the weather.

With funds raised at the annual Spring Fling, the school upgrades it technology during the summer. That includes the computer server, laptops in every classroom for teachers and new programs for the Smart Boards.

"In the new global economy, we need our students to have the knowledge and skills to compete," said Moes. "We want them to be problem-solvers, innovators and inventors who are self-reliant and able to think logically."

New this fall is a social studies curriculum. The school studies its curriculum last year and new books and other materials will be used. Student scores remain high in this area, said Moes.

The outside of the building also has a new look, thanks to the generosity of the Groh family. New landscaping has been planted, as well a new grass in the playground area.

The volleyball system has been updated in the gymnasium thanks to the Heil Brenny Foundation, established by teacher Sarah Brenny in memory of her parents. The foundation will also supply new uniforms for the team.

Seton School uses a comprehensive core knowledge curriculum that is rigorous and integrated with best professional practices in grades preschool to grade 8. Students meet and exceed state standards, Moes said. They have a strong Catholic affiliation and the ability to participate in the sacramental life of the church.

Moes praises her staff in helping to reach student goals. They provide a strong character building dimension that emphasizes traditional principles.

The smaller class sizes (average size is 19 this year) provide more individual attention from teachers, Moes said. The students last year did very well on national tests — "and that upholds behavior expectations," said Moes.

There is a "culture" of the school, that students and their families, as well as teachers staff believes strongly in, said Moes.

"The culture is of respect and integrity," she said. "I really believe that is because we believe that each child is a gift from God.

"We treat the children as we would want our own children to be treated. And it works."