By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is a bittersweet celebration taking place as people remember a Stearns County school.

In May, Holy Cross School, in the town of Marty, had its last day ever. The Diocese of St. Cloud made the decision to close the 117-year-old school.

But teachers and parents say the closure came out of nowhere.

“We were blindsided. Yes. No one had a clue this was coming,” said Al Haus. Three generations of his family have gone to Holy Cross.

In February, Haus said teachers and students were told they would be back in the fall. But two months later, they got a decree from the Bishop ordering the school to be closed for good.

“We did have new families coming next year. Enrollment was increasing next year. We still have not heard from the bishop an exact reason why,” said Haus.

In a statement, Bishop Donald Kettler said the decision to close Holy Cross was not an easy one. He pointed to “changing demographics, diminishing enrollments and other barriers” as reasons for the decision. The average class size was about 10 students, but school leaders say those numbers were trending up.

The decision left teachers and students scrambling to find new jobs and new schools before the fall.

“The school is the heart of this community, all over. And our heart’s broken,” said Ann Symalla, a first and second grade teacher. She isn’t sure what she’ll do next.

“This is where I get emotional because I’m used to all my kids and they’re gone,” she said.

Katie Calhoun taught kindergarten and first grade at Holy Cross for 27 years. She just found a new teaching job in Richmond. But she’ll miss helping these students grow mentally and spiritually.

“I can teach how I want to teach. It’s not the curriculum that makes you a great teacher it’s how you meet the needs of the students,” she said. “I always believe God has a plan. I’ve shed my tears and now it’s time to move on.”

The school served students in pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade and was known for specializing in teaching students with dyslexia.

A memorial celebration with Holy Cross alumni is being held tonight at the school from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

John Lauritsen