Families ready to enroll their child in school this year will have a new option in Washtenaw County. St. Andrew Catholic School in Saline will open its doors for the first time in August, with enrollment for children in Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6.
“This is a perfect time. Parents are looking for another option, and this is a beautiful option,” St. Andrew Catholic School Principal Michelle Sontag said.
The school will be housed in the Faith Formation wing of the church, with three levels of classrooms that will include an art room, a library, a science lab, and a multi-purpose space.
At the beginning of 2022, the church conducted a feasibility study and found that there was support from the parish, the priest, and the diocese.
“It was a parent-led initiative,” Sontag said. “During COVID, parents wanted their kids in school, and they also wanted an alternative education. They wanted something different.”
The school hopes to enroll 80 students in its first year.
“We have an opportunity to offer a personalized learning experience based on each student’s levels and needs,” Sontag said. “Our school does not have the capacity to be large. Ideally, we would like to keep classes between 15-18 students.”
A sense of community
Carrie Jere was looking for a school experience where she could connect with families and staff and find “a sense of community”, where parents were encouraged to participate in the education process.
The Jere family will be enrolling their fourth grade son and fifth grade daughter for the upcoming school year.
“We are parishioners here, and we already know so many people, so we are so looking forward to it,” Jere said.
Saline mom Amy Graf is excited to have a parochial school opportunity nearby, and will be enrolling her four and five year old children, beginning with the Pre-K program.
“It was really about wanting to stay within our community in Saline and also remain in our same faith community,” she said. “We love the parish and we’ve made a lot of nice friends here. It’s really been a blessing all around.”
Embracing the mission
Teacher Kristin Talaga was excited to be a part of a new school venture.
Her family is moving to the area from St. Louis this summer, and they will be enrolling their three children in the school as well. They were acquainted with the church and community after many trips to visit family in the area.
“When I heard St. Andrews was opening a school, I just thought it was a really exciting opportunity,” Talaga said. “I thought this would be a great little town to live in, so we’re moving everybody up here.”
Dave Fiske was lured out of retirement from Saline schools to join the staff at St. Andrew this fall.
He had formerly been a teacher at Heritage Elementary, where he had worked with Michelle Sontag, who was the principal of the school at that time.
“The doors just opened up,” Fiske said. “I love St. Andrews as a church. I feel at home here. I feel like it’s my second family. When Michelle was also hired, just so many things opened up. I prayed about it, and this was it. This is what I want to do.”
Fiske, along with other teachers and staff, is ready to embrace the school’s mission to help students “seek to know the Good, The True, and The Beautiful which leads us to Him.”
“My hopes for the school year are that we do have this great place as far as education for kids, but also for them to grow in their faith, and to be happy. Be happy with themselves and be happy with who they are,” he said. “ I think faith is going to help a lot with kids being happy with themselves, too.”