The elementary schools that have operated for many years at the Church of St. Veronica, Howell, and at Saint Aloysius, Jackson, will merge to form Mother Seton Academy when the 2019-20 school year begins in September.
Mother Seton Academy will be housed in what has been St. Veronica School, Route 9, Howell.
St. Veronica and St. Aloysius currently educate students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Sister Cherree Ann Power will be the president of Mother Seton Academy when the school opens. Power has been in religious life for 47 years, since the age of 15. She taught at St. Veronica School from 1980-90, before leaving to become a principal in New York. She returned to St. Veronica as principal in 1992.
“The reason we decided to merge is because both schools had decreasing enrollment and we wanted to keep Catholic education viable in this area,” Power said of the union of St. Veronica and St. Aloysius.
She said St. Veronica was selected as the home of Mother Seton Academy because it has a larger gymnasium, a stage and it is a bit larger than the school at St. Aloysius.
“We (the two schools) are merging, we will be together, many of (the St. Aloysius) students will be coming here and many of our (St. Veronica) students will be staying here and we have a number of new students as well,” Power said.
She said merging the schools from Howell and Jackson was the most viable option to keep Catholic schools alive.
“It is going to be very new, we have a new principal, Kathleen Blazewicz, and we will be the first elementary school in our diocese to have a president and a principal, and I will be staying on as president,” Power said.
As the president of Mother Seton Academy, Power will be involved in development, marketing the school to attract students and religious activities to increase the Catholic identity.
“I am excited because it is something new for both schools coming together and many of the children are excited. For some parents it is a little more difficult to come into this transition because both places want their school. The parents want to keep their school alive, but in order to keep it really alive we had to come together,” Power said.
She said one of Blazewicz’s primary initiatives would be a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) program.
St. Veronica School will close by June 30.
“Everything we have around the building now, whether it is pictures or posters, has to come down. When the students enter in September, whether they are from St. Veronica or St. Aloysius, when they walk through these doors they have to see something different. I’m glad I like to redecorate,” Power said.
The gymnasium at Mother Seton Academy will display the sports awards and banners that have been won by students at the St. Veronica and St. Aloysius schools.
“We want to bring together some of the legacy of St. Aloysius and some of ours. We will keep a section of all of that so everybody feels like this is their home,” Power said.
She said one goal moving forward would be to prepare students for the 21st century and to help the young people be formed in their faith.
“To open the eyes of their faith so they can live that throughout their lives. Both of our schools have been strong in Catholic identity, strong in academics, strong in citizenship, and we want to have that grow. Technology and the STEAM program is going to be a focus for this year to build that up,” Power said.
Rayanne Bennett, the executive director of communications and media for the Diocese of Trenton, said, “We continue to be encouraged by the overwhelming support for Catholic education that exists in these two communities.
“Any new endeavor brings with it both challenges and blessings, and our St. Aloysius and St. Veronica families are working together to ensure that Mother Seton Academy hits the ground running in a way that honors the legacies of these two merging schools.
“Our Bishop, the Rev. David M. O’Connell, and all of our school leadership join the Catholic communities in Howell and Jackson in looking forward to an exciting opening in September for Mother Seton Academy,” Bennett said.