St. Jude to close Havre Central building
Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson
St. Jude Thaddeus School sixth-grader Chido Chikwava works on her math journal in Kim O'Leary's math class Thursday morning in the Havre Central building.
After housing generations of students since being built in 1949, the Havre Central building will go unused starting in the fall.
The administrators of St. Jude Thaddeus School, that currently uses the building, decided that holding its sixth- to eighth-grade classes there is no longer financially justifiable.
"The draining factor was really the heating bill, " St. Jude Principal Carol Ortman said.
An average month's heating for the building costs about $6,600. A particularly bad month can set the school back more than $10,000, Ortman said.
For a building that currently holds 37 students who each pay a little less than $2,500 a year in tuition, she and the Rev. Dale Yurkovic, St. Jude's superintendent, feel the benefit is neither worth the cost nor fair to the students and their families.
"When you've got bills that take three students' tuition for one month, it's just not good stewardship, " Yurkovic said.
Aside from heating costs, the old building has a number of other expenses that the school just can't cover right now, including an estimated $380,000 worth of repair to the roof and plumbing in the building.
Yurkovic says the costs have gotten so high because the school was run, for 75 years, by Jesuits who "weren't known for their fiscal management. "
So starting next semester, St. Jude's will move its middle school grades into the same building as its grades first- to fifth-grade classrooms, and part-time, pre-school and kindergarten classrooms.
Yurkovic and Ortman say the school administration has no plans to do anything with the building for the foreseeable future. Havre Central will be emptied of the materials the school wants to keep available, like those in the second-floor Alumni Room, and it plans on keeping the building heated just enough to keep the already-damaged pipes from freezing.
Yurkovic says the plan is unpopular with some in the community, but it is the best for the future of the school.
"We're just trying to make the best of a tough economic time, " Yurkovic said. "It's better to have a St. Jude's school than no school at all.
"We want to make sure that there is still a St. Jude's school for the next 100 years."