Last week, the bulletin carried an invitation to all parishioners for an open forum discussion regarding the possibility of Willow Charter School at St. Patrick Parish. This invitation was also made during the announcement at every Mass. As a follow up to that forum, today, instead of a letter, I am providing a Q&A.
Introduction: Dan Calzaretta, Executive Director of Willow Charter School has approached St. Patrick Catholic Parish and requested to lease the old school building for their middle school, opening in August, 2018. Bishop Daly approved opening up discussion on this possibility and, subsequently, Dan Calzaretta made presentations and answered questions with members of the parish pastoral and finance council as well as the board for Walla Walla Catholic Schools. From those conversations, certain questions stood out prominently. Those questions with responses follow:
Will the parishioners of St. Patrick still have access to the facilities in the parish hall and school?
Yes. This would be a shared space lease. Though such an arrangement is likely to have conflicts from time to time, the vast majority of parish activities and uses take place on days/times that Willow would not be in the space.
Is this a permanent arrangement?
No. Willow ultimately desires to establish their own footprint somewhere in Walla Walla. To get started, they are requesting a three year lease with the possibility of renewal.
Does Willow present competition for Walla Walla Catholic Schools?
No. Willow desires to present an alternative model of education and is primarily reaching out to those families and students who have found it difficult to succeed in the more mainstream models of education found in either the Catholic or public school systems.
Is Willow espousing a Christian based education?
No. Willow is, fundamentally, a public school fostering an alternative learning model. However, while following the norms established for public education, Willow is committed to facts-based education, which allows them to avoid opposition to any faith tradition, including Catholicism. Language to this effect will be included in any lease agreement.
The proposed lease will generate income, how will it be used?
From the beginning of this conversation, one of the appealing aspects of the proposal was the possibility of using the patrimony of Catholic Education (St. Patrick’s School Building) to foster Catholic Education in Walla Walla. Therefore, a significant portion of the revenue generated will be used to this end. Additionally, as St. Patrick’s will be hosting Willow, a portion of the funds generated will be directed to important capital improvements to the grounds and facilities of our historic buildings.
As we move forward in this process I will continue to provide periodic updates in the bulletin. Though there are still various questions and challenges ahead, this partnership is an opportunity to benefit our Catholic community here in Walla Walla.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!