Ex-funeral home will convert to boarding school

Monday, June 1, 2009

In one attempt to help boost enrollment at St. Mary's Catholic School, local residents plan to open a boarding school residential facility by this fall in the building that formerly housed Fratzke and Jensen Funeral Home.

The plan is already seeing interest in prospective students from as far away as Hungary.

Boys from 9th to 12th grade will be boarding at Xavier Academy. Applications will be accepted nationally as well as internationally. Fratzke and Jensen Funeral Directors Tim Smith and his wife Erin, who helped spearhead the project, will serve as the host family for the Academy. The couple will be living in an apartment in an upper level on site.

Erin says when the academy is ready they'll be able to board between 20 and 22 students. Although the academy is a separate entity from St. Mary's, students at the academy will attend school at St. Mary's. "This will not be a house for naughty kids," says Erin who is also a member of St. Mary's Church and has children in the school system. "These will be college bound kids." In addition to their education at St. Mary's the boys will also participate in faith based curriculum at the academy, will be required to follow strict rules and guidelines and will probably be required to participate in other extra curricular and service projects, Erin says. Board Members of Xavier will be working with Dr. Jim Spencer a Creighton Professor on some of the faith based curriculum. The academy will also include a game room, living room and study areas.

Erin says after they moved out of the old funeral home she and her husband wanted to see the home go to a good use and felt since it was right across the street from the catholic school it could be a nice asset. She originally proposed moving the pre-school over to the funeral home and says Principal Bev Mach was supportive of the idea. Brent Koppie of Cherokee also proposed the idea of a boarding school. According to Erin, Mach introduced her to Koppie. "It just all kind of came together," she says.

Erin says in addition to hopefully boosting enrollment she says board members are hopeful the midwest based boarding school will hold an appeal for people. She says typically a boarding school elsewhere may charge $60,000 to $70,000 for room and board. Xaviers will be charging about $17,000 for room and board Meals will be catered and the students will be able to walk to school. Board members also hope Buena Vista University will be a draw for some of the boarding students. Erin says she asked herself the question, "Who would send their kids away to a boarding school." "Boarding schools are really coming back in a trend," she says. However, they're not quite as common in Iowa and the midwest as they are on the east and west coasts, she says. Erin says they've been had discussions with Mt. Michael, a boys boarding school in Elkhorn, NE. for some advice and assistance in starting the academy up.

Currently the academy is in the admissions process and already has two interested applicants from Hungary. Koppie who is on the board of directors says the two students are currently looking into the VISA process. Arnold and Nikki Zinnel of Humboldt will be the live in resident advisors.

"We're hoping this will be a win win situation for everybody," she says. "Midwest education is very highly regarded. People are looking at smaller class size. They may not be able to afford it where they live and this may be a way to boost enrollment," she says. She says students will also benefit from a low student to teacher ratio and individual attention.

For more information visit www.xaviercatholic.com.

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