Leaders of a couple of Catholic high schools in northwest Iowa have agreed to merge the schools beginning next year. The unification between the Gehlen and Spalding Catholic schools was first proposed in September, but was finalized Wednesday night with unanimous votes by both school boards.
Gehlen Catholic School Board President Brian Kolbeck said he understands why many people are concerned with the decision, especially considering the two schools are 25 miles apart, but the top concern should be providing students with the best education possible.
“Due to changing demographics, we must have a vision and a plan for our future that is responsive to the realities and needs of our students, parishes, parents, benefactors and communities,” Kolbeck said. “Our primary goal is to strengthen Catholic education in northwest Iowa.”
The two schools fielded one combined football team for the first time this past fall, but have shared resources in other ways for years. Spalding Catholic School Board President Jeanne Jungers said students at Spalding, located in Granville, will attend Gehlen Catholic High School, in Le Mars, starting next fall.
“As we enter this new chapter, for our future as Spalding Catholic, we want to acknowledge that there’s also a sense of loss,” Jungers said. “Even though this is an exciting decision, it’s very difficult as it’s closing a chapter for Spalding and opening a new and exciting endeavor for us as well.”
The merged Catholic schools will be called Gehlen Catholic High School. Jungers said some teachers at Spalding could move to Gehlen, but that will depend on enrollment figures. There are 72 students between 8th and 11th grade currently attending Spalding and a survey found at least 70-percent of those students are likely to attend Gehlen next year.
Jungers said a festival to mark Spalding’s 50th anniversary will still take place this summer.
By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars