The new Dedicated Lafayette Catholic School System Preschool

LAFAYETTE — More than a year and a half after a building was donated to the Lafayette Catholic School System by Franciscan Health, the school system’s fifth and newest school and only free-standing preschool was dedicated in December.

The 10,000 square foot building, a former adult physical rehabilitation center, was donated by Franciscan Health in July 2019 to LCSS, which invested $2 million to renovate the interior and create the brand new preschool, St Francis Early Learning Academy, located in Lafayette at 1223 N. 16th St.

The preschool’s name, St. Francis, was partly a nod to the donation from Franciscan Health, said LCSS executive director Eric Davis.

“It also aligns well with our mission,” Davis said.

Franciscan Health is one of the largest Catholic healthcare systems in the Midwest, founded by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration. The hospital network has one in Lafayette—Franciscan Health Lafayette East.

Renovations, which included completely remodeling the interior to create a “modern, state-of-the-art school,” Davis said, began in January and were completed in July. The school opened its first students in August. He was consecrated by Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana on December 1.

“It would have been great to embark on a year without a pandemic, but sometimes it pushes people to seize the moment,” Davis said. “I think our faculty, our teachers and our principal certainly did that.”

The school, which offers pre-school classes for 3 to 5 year olds, has a capacity of 250 students. Davis said the new preschool was first identified as a growing need for the school system, which runs four other schools serving older children in the Greater Lafayette area — St. Mary’s Cathedral for grades K- 3, St. Boniface for grades 4-6, St. Lawrence for grades K-6 and Central Catholic Jr./Sr. High School, for grades 7-12.

Currently, St. Francis is the only LCSS preschool offering. Betsy Tuholski, principal of St. Francis, said preschools in St. Mary’s and St. Lawrence have since closed.

Despite the challenges that might have arisen with opening and operating a school amid the coronavirus pandemic, Tuholski said she believes the school was “lucky” and did its bit. best to mitigate any type of spread.

Tuholski said she expects preschool enrollment to increase in the coming years, especially as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widespread.

“It’s been an interesting year, but we’ve had a lot of luck and great families,” Tuholski said. “It’s nice to be part of this brand new school, and an opportunity like this in education just doesn’t happen all the time.”

Emily DeLetter is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Contact her at (765) 201-8515 or by email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.

Jeremy S. McLain