St. Anthony Students, Teachers Seek New 'Home'
Closure of school still upsetting to many.
Some say time heals all wounds.
"It was a family and, as a family, we didn't have a chance to say goodbye," Karen Bogert, a first grade teacher at the school for six years, said about the school's closure announcement on June 22.
Bogert was one of 10 full-time teachers who found out they would have to look for a new job and a new school to call "home" by telephone call when the school announced it would be closing. According to the parish website, the school was forced to close because of declining enrollment.
But Rebecca Safi, a 12-year-old former student of St. Anthony School, said the students could sense something was wrong before the school year was done.
"After the parents' meeting [in May], people were saying, 'Did you hear the school might close? What school are you going to?'" Safi, a Butler resident, said.
Safi said she and many of her classmates had heard about the discussions during the parents' meeting, in which parents were told that if enrollment numbers dropped below 130 students for any three-week period, the school would be forced to shut its doors.
In June, when Safi learned the school would be closing, she said she was "sad, worried, nervous and mad." Bogert had similar emotions when she heard the school would be closing and said she felt "mad, bitter, heartbroken and betrayed."
Safi would have been entering seventh grade at St. Anthony School this year. But Safi does not blame any one person for the closing of the school.
"It was a group of people, it wasn't just one person," she said.
Safi only spent two years at St. Antony School, transfering from the Aaron Decker School, in Butler, after hearing about the experience other students had there. Like Bogert, Safi said she considered St. Anthony School home.
"We were kind of like a family. It was really hard to kind of break apart," she said.
Bogert said St. Anthony School gave her her first teaching job, which she became interested in after putting both of her daughters through the school. She is not Catholic, but said she and her husband decided to look into St. Anthony School for her kids in 1999. She said she felt a positive "aura" when she first walked through the school's doors, which are now 130 years old.
"I said to my husband, 'This is home,'" she said.
A teary-eyed Bogert recalled several memories from her years at the school, particularly joining together with parents, students and community members for morning community prayer.
"It was never just about reading, writing and arithmetic. It was so much more," she said.
Bogert said many of the teachers would spend time with the students outside the classroom and get to know them and their passions.
"We would go to the kids' baseball games and gymnastic meets because that's what a family does," she said.
The students could sense the teachers' love for the students as well, according to Safi. Safi said she will miss her teachers the most as a result of the school closing.
Now Bogert is looking for a new teaching job, a task she said is especially difficult since the teachers found out the school would be closing in the summer, when most school districts have already hired teachers for the upcoming year. Safi is looking for a new school, but hoping to continue with faith-based education and not return to public school.
Safi and her family, former parishioners of the St. Anthony of Padua parish, are also now looking for a new church.
"Ever since the school closed, we've kind of been church hopping," she said. "But we're just not ready to go back to St. Anthony yet."