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Examiner
  • Goodbye, and God bless

  • Annie Stark has been attending a private, Catholic school since she has been in kindergarten.



    Now a sophomore, the last two years have been spent at St. Mary’s High School. An almost 160-year-old tradition in Eastern Jackson County, St. Mary’s High School closed its doors Thursday, leaving students and faculty to figure out what comes next.

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  • Annie Stark has been attending a private, Catholic school since she has been in kindergarten.
    Now a sophomore, the last two years have been spent at St. Mary’s High School. An almost 160-year-old tradition in Eastern Jackson County, St. Mary’s High School closed its doors Thursday, leaving students and faculty to figure out what comes next.
    “Like everyone else, I was mad,” Stark said on learning the news that St. Mary’s would close at the end of the year. “I kind of felt like I was robbed somehow.”
    The Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese announced its decision to shut the doors of St. Mary’s in January. That left about five months for students to decide if they would continue their high school career at a Catholic high school or enter public school. The diocese offered an alternative for current St. Mary’s students - they could attend Archbishop O’Hara or St. Pius X at the same tuition rate that would have been charged for the 2013-14 school year at St. Mary’s. The original long-term plan was to combine the student populations of St. Mary’s and O’Hara in two years when St. Michael the Archangel in Lee’s Summit is scheduled to open. So it is no surprise that of the two high schools, the largest group, about 35, has enrolled at O’Hara. Only five have enrolled so far at Pius X and several have also enrolled at Summit Christian Academy in Lee’s Summit. The remaining students are either undecided or have opted to attend one of the local public high schools.
    “I am going to O’Hara,” said Janeth Valverde, who will be a sophomore next year. “It does make the transition a little easier because there is such a large group going (to O’Hara). It makes it more familiar.”
    Lori Jonas, who has not only worked at St. Mary’s for 12 years but is also an alumni, has one son who is a St. Mary’s graduate and another who will be a junior. She said it was his decision to attend William Chrisman High School. But unlike many of his classmates, he has experience attending public school.
    “He was at St. Ann’s when it closed, so he has been through this before,” she said of the Independence Catholic school that closed in 2008. “He went to Bingham Middle School after it closed, so he has friends at William Chrisman. I was hesitant at first, but that is what he wanted.”
    As for the school’s small group of teachers, a handful will to retire. These are Brenda Peak, English, 42 years; Glenn Young, American government, geography and Street Law, 41 years; Tom Bates, head track and cross country coach, 39 years; and Nilda Bambenek, Spanish 17 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I felt anger and sadness. After 41 years, it felt like I was losing a family member,” said Young, who was already planning to retire before the decision to close St. Mary‘s was made. “I hope that they will be themselves (referring to the St. Mary’s students next year). I want them to give nothing less than 100 percent in everything they are involved with.”
    For Stark, she will be attending Lee’s Summit North High School this fall. She said being the only one from St. Mary’s to attend the high school will be difficult, and she is nervous about making the transition.
    “I am going from the smallest school in the area to one of the biggest,” she said. “I have been with this group of people my whole life, and this is such a big change. No one will know me. It will be pretty strange.”
     
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