Back to School: Parochial schools partner to save funds

Sacred Heart Catholic School and St. James Lutheran School in Shawano are partnering to save money on a technology upgrade.
Sacred Heart Catholic School and St. James Lutheran School in Shawano are partnering to save money on a technology upgrade.

SHAWANO - As students get ready to head back to school, two parochial schools in Shawano are partnering together to keep technology costs down.

For the combined staff at Sacred Heart Catholic and St. James Lutheran schools in Shawano, logging on to a wireless network with their brand-new laptops is a big deal.

“Our lab was very slow, wasn’t very consistent all the time, because we had to use kind of a makeshift thing to keep things running,” said Susan Longmire, the principal at St. James Lutheran School.

Principals Longmire and Elisha Wagenson knew their schools' computers weren't ready for the 21st century. But the cost of an upgrade seemed too big to go alone.

“So working together and working with Green Light Associates, we were able to secure the funding from a third party,” said Elisha Wagenson, the principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

Wagenson says an anonymous foundation gave the schools a $150,000 grant. That doesn't just purchase more than 100 devices. The money paid for expensive network upgrades in both buildings. It also covered teacher training and the development of digital lesson plans.

For the first time, students at both schools won't have to go to a computer lab to do their work. They can take a tablet or a laptop directly into their classroom

“It's meant to take our schools from a very traditional setting to the 21st century. In the 21st century, learning looks different. Students aren't always sitting in straight rows and sitting listening to a teacher lecture so we’re working on active engagement strategies with our teachers,” said Wagenson.

Longmire says it's not just the technology that's evolving with this partnership. The coming together of Catholics and Lutherans represents a new attitude towards what used to be a religious divide.

“There was a little part of me that was wondering, ‘what are people going to do when they find out that we're doing this?’ But the response that we've had has been great. I've been hearing things like, ‘it's about time,’” said Longmire.

The principals say their schools' similarities outweigh the differences, and working together may help small town private education survive on limited resources.

Even with the $150,000 grant, the private schools in Shawano say they're still short of their goal. The full five-year upgrade plan for the Parochial School Partnership will cost $900,000.