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    There was only one historic St. Francis of Assisi, but in true Trinitarian form, his legacy has three modern-day institutional incarnations within the Louisville community: the St. Francis Preschool in Harrods Creek, St. Francis School in Goshen (which serves elementary- and middle-schoolers), and St. Francis High School downtown. These three bodies have operated separately since their respective foundings, but come July 1, 2012, they will officially merge to form one combined preschool-through-twelfth-grade institution, as was approved by the boards of all three schools last month.

    As mentioned above, these schools have always functioned independently of one another and are located on different sites, but have traditionally been closely related in many ways. All three are similarly positioned in terms of finances and educational philosophy -- the mission statements for St. Francis High School and the St. Francis School (which includes both Harrods Creek and Goshen locations) echo the same core values of individual learning, leadership development, the fostering of a global perspective, and the model of "progressive education" as was developed by John Dewey and Francis J. Parker in the beginning of the twentieth century. Additionally, despite associations with the namesake patron saint and the origins of the St. Francis School at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church (it was founded there in 1948 by members of the parish and expanded by the Rev. Stephen R. Davenport in 1965), all three schools are non-denominational. Rumors have been circulating of a merger since December of last year, but the official announcement came during a press conference held at St. Francis High School on February 23, 2012.

    According to the accompanying press release, the merged school will be called "St. Francis School," and will act as the only Independent school in the Louisville area that serves two-year-olds through twelfth-graders. The three will continue to operate at their particular sites for the immediate future, but each campus will henceforth be designated with the school name and location as its official title. For example, St. Francis High School will be called "St. Francis School, Downtown Campus." In addition to the decision to merge, the boards passed a resolution to name Alexandra S. Thurstone -- a graduate of both the St. Francis School and St. Francis High School and the current Head of the latter -- as Head of School for the single merged body. All three campuses will have individual Heads as well: Renee Hennessy will continue as the Director of the Harrods Creek Preschool, Reed Gabhart will serve as Head of the Goshen Campus, and Suzanne Gorman will become Head of the Downtown Campus.

    The news bodes well for the schools, as admission activity within all three entities has increased in tours and applications since discussions of the merger began last year. In fact, for the second year in a row, St. Francis High School has a waitlist. With the abundance of private schools and the enormous size of the JCPS district, it can also be seen as a savvy and prudent move by the institutions to distinguish themselves and market the St. Francis name. As Lisa Fleming, Chairman of the St. Francis School Board of Trustees, and the St. Francis High School Board Co-Chairmen Wes Johnson and Ben Holt have declared, "This merger will now allow us to speak with one voice and communicate to everyone in the Metro area that there is a new, cohesive preschool through twelfth-grade school for those who seek an extraordinary education for their children."

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    Karen Ellestad's picture

    About Karen Ellestad

    When I was seven and my brother was eight, we both wrote to 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' for a free t-shirt. Two weeks later his arrived in the mail, signed by Carmen Sandiego herself, accompanied by an autographed picture of the cast, an official membership to the 'Gumshoe Club,' and a Rockapella casette tape. I got a postcard.

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